May Wrap-Up & June TBR | Slow reading, but new obsessions…

Greetings readers!

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!

wrap-up-3

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 Descendant of the Crane. I just felt like they both lacked some luster for me.

The Haul:

Let’s just say I have been very, very lucky with the publisher love.

For the Wolf by Hannah F. Whitten
The Jasmine 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.

Crash Landing on You (TV Series 2019–2020) - IMDb
IMDb

Posts of the Months

Flamefall | Review // That moment when a book blows every single expectation away!

Goodreads Was Wrong Book Tag

TBR

TBR

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!

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

Goodreads Was Wrong Book Tag

Greetings readers!

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 (Throne of Glass, #7)

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 (The Star-Touched Queen, #1)

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 (Throne of Glass, #4)

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 (The Reckoning #1)

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

The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli
GR rating: 3.34
My Rating: 4

Obsidian Mirror (Chronoptika, #1)

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

The Good Luck Charm by Helena Hunting
GR rating: 3.59
My Rating: 2 (But it should be 1)

The Wedding Date Disaster

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 (Kingdom of the Wicked, #1)

Kingdom of the Wicked by Keri Maniscalco
GR Rating: 4.01
My Rating: 2

The Sky Weaver (Iskari, #3)

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! 🙂

I TAG…

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?

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet | HOV Book Tour // Review + Fan Art

Greetings readers!

I am so, so pleased to bring you this post today! Thank you to Hear Our Voices Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of the tour for this amazing book coming out April 6th!

Forgive my rambling friends, but there is just so much to say about this book!

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Publisher: Little Brown
Release Date: April 6, 2021
Genre: YA Fiction

Amazon | Barnes & Noble  | Bookshop.org

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.

Twitter | Instagram | Website | Goodreads


*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!!


FOLLOW THE TOUR!

Let me know what you think! What are your favourite emotional reads? What are your favourite books about food? Are you looking forward to reading this?

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

A Sky Beyond the Storm | Review // I will NEVER recover from this book, and that’s okay with me

Greetings readers!

How do you write a review for the single, most anticipated read of the past year? How do you write a review for a book you’ve been waiting ages for? How do write a review for a finale of a series so near and dear to the heart? How?

It is simply impossible.

But the Commandant beat that word out of my vocabulary.

Or rather Sabaa Tahir wrenched it from my mouth.

So here goes my attempt to describe my love for a series literally EVERYONE needs to read.

Beware of spoilers for books 1-3.

A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir

A ​Sky Beyond the Storm (An Ember in the Ashes, #4)

Pub Date: Dec 2nd, 2020
Publisher: Razorbill

Prepare for the jaw-dropping finale of Sabaa Tahir’s beloved New York Times bestselling An Ember in the Ashes fantasy series, and discover: Who will survive the storm?

Picking up just a few months after A Reaper at the Gates left off…

The long-imprisoned jinn are on the attack, wreaking bloody havoc in villages and cities alike. But for the Nightbringer, vengeance on his human foes is just the beginning.

At his side, Commandant Keris Veturia declares herself Empress, and calls for the heads of any and all who defy her rule. At the top of the list? The Blood Shrike and her remaining family.

Laia of Serra, now allied with the Blood Shrike, struggles to recover from the loss of the two people most important to her. Determined to stop the approaching apocalypse, she throws herself into the destruction of the Nightbringer. In the process, she awakens an ancient power that could lead her to victory–or to an unimaginable doom.

And deep in the Waiting Place, the Soul Catcher seeks only to forget the life–and love–he left behind. Yet doing so means ignoring the trail of murder left by the Nightbringer and his jinn. To uphold his oath and protect the human world from the supernatural, the Soul Catcher must look beyond the borders of his own land. He must take on a mission that could save–or destroy–all that he knows.


This book took my breath away.

Plain and simple.

First of all, we have to talk about the characters because the characters are what make this series so amazing.

Laia will forever be my queen. You can all complain about the amount of wrong decisions she makes all you want, it will go in through on ear and out the other for me because in this house Laia of Serra is perfection. We root for the fact that she never stops fighting, that she fights for her people, her family, her love (hello Elaia rights) and herself. She fights with her compassion and her sense of justice. Yes, she gets things wrong and she makes mistakes along the way, but when you have everything to lose, you never stop fighting. And geez Laia has just grown so much over the series, she has struggled with her past decisions, they haunt her and continue to haunt her, but the love that she gives is enough to push her, to keep going no matter what and I’m literally here sobbing.

Elias Veturius will forever be my book husband. Considering how Reaper ended, his chapters continuously TORE OUT MY HEART!

tired al pacino GIF

Fighting the magic that has taken over his consciousness takes a toll on him and I loved the exploration of humanity when it came to his arc. Reading about Elias’ fighting to regain the one thing he promised himself he would never give up brought me to tears so many times! And the things my poor baby goes through in this book!!! The pain and suffering he endures because of the deals he’s made to save those he cares for the most even if he cannot remember them! His white knight complex is next level and that really bothers Mauth XD. Learning to let go of that responsibility and shame he feels, learning to fight the magic that tells him to forget, figuring out how to keep the world from collapsing…it’s a lot. (Understatement of the century) And *tears up* my husband takes it all on because he is just that amazing.

Helene will forever be a roller coaster character. Helene suffers in this one. I mean they all suffered, but she dang she goes through a lot. (Another understatement) While trying to protect her nephew, managing a divided empire, fighting a magical demon and his Commandant-shaped henchperson…she deals with A LOT. But you know what? More than anything, I am thankful for the epiphany she finally has! And yes I’m talking about her finally recognizing the atrocities of the empire she holds in such high regard. In the end she needed it to move forward, for her people to have a future she needed to recognize the humanity in all the people the empire has trampled in its path. Does she still have a lot to learn and a lot to change? Oh YEAH, but getting to the start is an important step.

I also have to note how much I loved the friendship between Laia and Helene. Especially after two books of them hating each other, their easy friendship was so heartwarming!

flattered brittany murphy GIF

Other characters…I would die for Musa of Adisa. I WOULD DIE FOR HIM. I would literally lay my life down for him. (We get it, Rendz.) Yes. We love a sassy, snarky and ship-supporting beekeeper. We love a magician with secrets! And we love that he puts people in his place when he needs to! But oh my poor baby suffers. Darin, my sweet summer child. He is the kind of brother I would want. As he fights the dark memories from Kauf, he does his best to fight for Laia, to keep his family united! He is a star! Avitas Harper, sir you deserve the world. Harper, in his quiet and background way always makes himself known and we stan him so hard. I would really love to know more about his backstory.

The Commandant can choke, as usual. The Nightbringer can also choke. But dang I gotta say I love how Sabaa plotted out this villain/antagonist script in the end. I loved the grayness that she poured into the story. Don’t get me wrong, these two needed to be defeated, but I liked the twistiness that prompted their motivations. No tragic past can ever truly justify the evil they unleashed on the world, but dang I have to say I was impressed. I also like how Sabaa showed how none of the groups were 100% *good* or 100% *bad*. Like the Scholars were terrible to the Jinn, the Martials were terrible to everybody, the Jinn also terrible to everyone, the Marinn were kind of snobby, but there was still some goodness in the individuals of these groups. Enough goodness to rock the lines of divide…which I guess is the point of the series!

Now let’s talk ships because I am here for the ships. But of course I won’t be spoiling anything so all I have to say about the romance in this book is that.
It was torturous.
It was constant pining.
It was hot hot hot.
It was heart-SMASHING.
It was MIND BLOWING.

Tim And Eric Omg GIF

Okay so plot wise, things are intense. Just thinking about all the places and people we visit in order to fight this evil. Personally, I loved it. I wanted to savour this world and ending so I was happy that we got to travel and have so many intense mini battles before the big showdown. That being said, it is a slow read. With continuous POV switches and a million things to fix this story is one you have to allow yourself to simmer in. Because before you know it, you are in a pot of boiling water.

AND I MEAN IT. THE WATER IS BOILING.

THE LAST 70ISH PAGES LITERALLY SHATTERED BY HEART INTO A MILLION PIECES.

I’m telling you I sobbed. SOBBED.

I was sitting in my room at 1:30 a.m. in a boogery-teary state. So so much goes on in these final chapters. I was SCREAMING AT LITERALLY EVERYTHING! Sabaa promised a jaw-dropping ending and she delivered! She 100000% CRUSHED MY HEART IN A MATTER OF PAGES.

SABAA DID NOT HOLD BACK IN BRINGING ON THE EMOTIONAL PAIN. 

What can I say…but be prepared to not be ready. Be prepared to not be ready about what goes down, who shows up, what goes wrong, what goes right. I sure as heck was not prepared for a single thing that happened. These 70 pages were the most intense, the most scary, the most hopeful and the most painful pages I have ever read.

And people, be ready to cry because you are not prepared for the character deaths. You are not prepared. I was on the floor. I was on the fucking floor crying my eyes out. I sobbed for three days straight after putting down this book and a lot of it has to do with the characters deaths: Both who dies and how. I just..I’m sitting here getting emotional again.

And then we up the ante with CHARACTER REVELATIONS THAT JUST AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I DID NOT SEE THESE COMING AND I WAS ONCE AGAIN ON THE FLOOR ABSOLUTELY GOBSMACKED. GOBSMACKED BY MY EMOTIONS.

So yeah these last 70ish pages.

Also the section titles: Iconic.

And finally the ending: When I tell you that I was in my feels. I WAS IN MY FEELS.


And we have made it to the end. How are we doing? Because I just relived every emotion I went through while reading this book and to be honest I want to do it again. My heart will never heal. I literally am never going to get over this series and that is exactly how I like it.

I asked for this, friends. I asked to be emotionally wrecked by this finale and when I tell you it delivered, it DELIVERED.

Sabaa is a master storyteller. She is going down in my books as one of my favourite authors ever. She deserves your love and attention!!!

Rating: ALL THE STARS!

Recommend: HELL YES. GET ON THIS SERIES PEEPS!

Let me know what you think? Have you read this series? Were you also emotionally destroyed? If you could pick an Ember character to get more story from, who would you pick?

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega | Review // THE Contemporary book to read this February!

Greetings readers!

HELLLOOOO EVERYONE! AND WELCOME TO A REVIEW I AM VERY EXCITED TO BE SHARING WITH YOU ALL TODAY!

Rendz, be cool with the all caps.

Sorry.

What can I say? When a book with a beautiful cover and and even more beautiful storyline walks into my life, I have to talk about it! I have to shout about it from the roof tops and tell you all to read it!

It starts with this review, which–if I am honest–is a little messy and everywhere because when I love a book so much I feel like I sound like that kid who struggles to form his sentence.

You know this kid:

Have You Ever Had A Dream Kid GIFs | Tenor

Yeah…that’s what I feel this review sounds like.

BUT REGARDLESS OF THAT FACT. I PRESENT TO YOU THE CONTEMPORARY BOOK EVERYONE HAS TO READ THIS FEBRUARY!!!

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega

Pub Date: Feb 2, 2021
Publisher: Holiday House
Buy Links

Coming of age as a Fat brown girl in a white Connecticut suburb is hard.
Harder when your whole life is on fire, though.

Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat.

People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it’s hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn’t help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter.

But there’s one person who’s always in Charlie’s corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing–he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her? UGHHH. Everything is now officially a MESS.

A sensitive, funny, and painful coming-of-age story with a wry voice and tons of chisme, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega tackles our relationships to our parents, our bodies, our cultures, and ourselves.


*Thank you Penguin Teen CA for the digital ARC*

The Likes

How do I even begin to tell you about this book?

How do I begin to tell you how utterly and totally in love I am with this story?

Well I can say that it starts and ends with Charlie Vega. A character who I am sure will capture the hearts of so many readers! (She sure as heck captured mine!) Charlie is a wonderfully dynamic character that charmed me from page one! Told in a sincere, heart-felt and hilarious prose, Charlie’s story is one of a fat, half-Puerto Rican girl navigating high school life in the (very white) suburbs. And I loved it. From raving about #FatFashionistas to dealing with the very real fear of second-place syndrome and re-finding estranged family and culture, Charlie is a character whose experiences of self-doubt, jealousy, resentment, first times, rage, self-loathing, confidence and eventually self-love are multi-faceted and captivating.

I know resonating with characters are only part of the reading experience, but I have to say that whenever Charlie talked about her romantic experiences or lack there-of I couldn’t help but smash the #Relate button. While our reasons for lacking in love life differed, I still couldn’t help but feel a connection whenever she talked about that yearning she felt and the embarrassment of being so inexperienced! I loved that she found escape in her reading and writing and that she lived vicariously through her fictional characters! (Something I think a lot of us can relate to!) To make this ramble short, Charlie is a breath of fresh air character. She sounds and feels like a teenager on every page. She is sweet and fierce. I absolutely adored her!

Other characters…I really enjoyed Amelia’s character. As Charlie’s pansexual, cool, vibrant and beloved BFF she plays a very complex and integral role in Charlie’s story. Their friendship is in many ways the heart of this story, which is written so beautifully! Brian. OMG BRIAN. I was so soft for Brian who was so sweet and kind!!! And Charlie’s mom…..mmmm…I just didn’t love her. She is also in need of her own journey, that’s all I have to say.

The central theme of this book is embracing self-love and it was such a touching and raw journey for Charlie! It is well known how much we can be our worst enemies and this book is all about us being kinder to ourselves. Charlie’s journey to self-love is not easy, especially as she is constantly surrounded by people and media that tell her that she and her body are not enough or too much and do not deserve love until they say so. It’s an even harder road to travel when those messages become so ingrained within ourselves that we become the obstacles that prevent us from opening up! It’s a story that really hammered in the message to find love for ourselves, that in giving ourselves love we can find that happiness.

This story broke my heart and patched it back up in so many ways. Maldonado crafted a story that had me laughing and giggling on one page, raging on the next and being totally and utterly soft on the following page. Her writing style is clean, direct and enthralling! I was flipping the pages so fast, I couldn’t get enough of this story! It was laugh out loud funny and I was SWOONING with every interaction between Charlie and Brian!

On the one hand it has the feel of your typical Teen rom-com, but with the taste of a new and fresh story of love and friendship that has never been written before!!

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

Recommend?: Absolutely!


Let me know what you think! Are you looking forward to reading this? What other books with fat MCs would you recommend? What are your favourite teen rom-coms and coming of age stories?

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

The Bookish Feels | Books that are emotional roller coasters

Greetings readers!

I would love to know how emotional you get when you read?

And I’m talking EMOTIONAL! Like facial expressions, odd noises and all. When I tell you guys that a book was an emotional roller coaster, I’m telling you that I experienced a very powerful series of feelings that had me in all sorts of ways XD

So I figured today I would highlight some of the books that made me totally and utterly and completely emotional. I know I usually organize these posts by singular emotions, but today I’m going full scale feeling frenzy.

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso

We start with my top read of 2020. This book had several SCENES that literally made me scream “AH” out loud. I felt a lot of rage and honestly I think it’s why I loved it so much hehehe This book was so amazing, I read it twice within the same year. And friends it just gets better the second time around! Ahhhhhh this book just had so much to take in at once, my jaw was literally on the floor by the end of it. (It might still be on the floor)

Furia by Yamile Saied Mendez

Furia

I need to quote my review because past me just knew what she was talking about: “absolutely gobsmacked by my emotions” Oh Rendz how right you were! This was definitely one of my top reads from 2020! It is a contemporary story that packs punch after punch and also very warm hugs. I was squealing and raging and crying and laughing my whole way through this book. Incredible. Simply incredible!

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

Hoo. Friends. This book had me bouncing back and forth between stress, rage, hopelessness, love, joy, rage rage rage, and then hope. I just nfjnkajdbhjnjfef this book is soo amazing! It’s one of Marie’s quieter book, but it deserves your love and attention. This historical fantasy swept me off my feet and wiped the floor with me. It is both heart-breaking and inspiring, I cannot recommend it enough!

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Are we surprised to see this book on here? Nope. This book…oh my lord THIS BOOK. *clucthes heart* THIS BOOK WAS MY PERSONALITY for like three months after I read it XD I just ahhh I felt all kinds of things while reading this book. I may have not literally wept, but the squealing and book hugging was real. How many times have I gone back to read my favourite parts? So many times. I adore this book.

A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir

A ​Sky Beyond the Storm (An Ember in the Ashes, #4)

Two words: Weeping Uncontrollably. This book (which I’m still working hard to write my review on) had me on every level of emotion you can imagine. I was dreamy then I was sad, I was hopeful and then I was distraught, I was smiling in glee and then I was sobbing. My body shaking in absolute horror at what happened. And well…I can’t tell you how I felt at the end (you can read that in my review *winks*) but let’s just say my world was ROCKED.


And that is it for me friends! I would love to know what books sent you on an emotional roller coaster! What kind of feelings do you go through? How do you handle the emotions when they wrap you up?

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

New Year, New Look, Still all about the Books

Greetings readers!

Well it has been a while, hasn’t it? I didn’t mean to push my blogging duties aside so abruptly, but I will be honest I didn’t feel like blogging for several weeks. It was a mix of many going-ons in my life from burnouts that led to zero motivation to limited time to even think about blogging, I just felt like I needed a break from the blogsphere and I took it unannounced.

That being said, I wanted to enter the new year with a fresh perspective, that meant changing up my look and getting creative. So forgive me that it took a while trying to put all this together, but I wanted to be sure I got it right before I showed it off to my corner of the internet!

So what exactly have I been up to this past month?

Well for one, I finished another semester of online schooling, as is the case with many people I presume. I had a very heavy workload towards the end and I just could not find the right time or the energy to muster up any ideas for what to write. I read faster than I could even pump our mini reviews for Goodreads!

tired princess and the frog GIF
via giphy.com

I have also been reading a lot and yet not a lot. I was trying very hard to catch up on my Netgalley percentage, but I didn’t quite make it before I went on another request binge. Oops. However, I did do one thing that brought me much joy. I reread the entire AN EMBER IN THE ASHES series from start to finish! I am emotionally destroyed, but it was so so so worth it!

Q: What are the final book(s) you are reading before the end of 2020?

December has been a Month™ for me and Ive enjoyed it by living in one fictional world from one of my favourite series.

Rereading An Ember in the Ashes series has been one of the best ways to spend this last month. I lived every moment in my ~feels~. These books make me scream, cry, sob, laugh, shriek, melt and basically make me feel every emotion one can conjure and I wouldnt have it any other way. I have gotten some seriously funny looks from my family as they witness my journey 😂.

And now Im in the middle of A Sky Beyond the Storm, and lets just say my emotions are EVERYWHERE. There are times when I wish I could go back to the beginning and there are other times when I want to just get to the next chapter to know what happens!

Ending this decade-of-a-year with this book is a wild kind of ride, but I love it.

I cant wait to read more of Sabaas work and what other kind of pain and wonder she will make me endure and enjoy. I look forward to it.

#ASkyBeyondTheStorm #AnEmberIntheAshes #ATorchAgainsttheNight #AReaperAtTheGates #SabaaTahir #bookstagram #yabooks #books #reader #bookishcanadians #fantasy Mr #emberquartet #mustreads #booklover #bookish #bookishphotography #greatreads #reading #igbooks #igreads #newbooks #finalebooks #penguinteen #laiaofserra #eliasveturius #heleneaquilla #2020books

I have been much more active on my Instagram! I have been trying to build up that platform as much as I could although finding the right lighting in the winter can be quite difficult! But I do enjoy that platform quite a bit! I also ended up taking a Twitter hiatus which I have come to enjoy. Twitter can be fun, but it is also chaotic and taking breaks from it is necessary.

And last but not least, I redesigned my blog! I changed up the theme, colour scheme and my logo! Say hello to the new green bean me!

Reading with Rendz

~Reading Goals!~

Every year I try to make reading goals, and every year I don’t quite achieve them. So this year I am trying to remind myself that the only goal that really matters is that I enjoy my reading and my blogging! That being said, I still want to put up some checkpoints for myself. Give myself some ground lines that will help me from trying to achieve it all and instead simply achieve what I can!

So here we go..

1. Read 100 Books.

Considering that this pandemic doesn’t look to me ending any time soon, I figured this is the perfect year to try and make this goal that I have been working towards over the past 4 years. Last year I read a total of 109 books, which is a good sign. I originally aimed for 80, so let’s see if I can take this big leap!

100 GIF by AT&T
via giphy.com

2. Track my reading with Story Graph and lean away from Goodreads

2020 was the year we talked about changing our habits, so 2021 has to be the year where we actually do the actions of change. Goodreads, despite being a staple in the book community, isn’t the only option. Story Graph is a newer and very user friendly book tracker that has lots of perks like half stars and mood settings! I’m still learning to use it which is why I haven’t deleted my Goodreads just yet. My goal is to use SG as my main platform and only post reviews on GR. I understand how important that platform is for lesser known authors, so I can’t completely do away with it, but the fun of tracking I know I can achieve elsewhere.

Have you made a Story Graph account? Follow me “rendz” and I’d be happy to follow back!

The StoryGraph

3. Read the Books I Own

This has been a goal for every year and every year I feel like I don’t even try to achieve it, so it is going on here again. But this time I want to get serious. I aim to read at least one book I own every single month. At least one. (Please Rendz!) I have so many books on my shelves that have been calling out to me as of late and it is time I give in!

I think I’ll let you all be part of the process and help me choose one book from my shelf each month!

kids read GIF
via giphy.com

4. Plan my Book Buying

Money is just something I have to be conscious of these days when it comes to book buying and that means picking and choosing a limited amount. No more big hauls etc etc. And well since Silvia Moreno-Garcia has 4 books coming out in 2021 we all know where my wallet is leaning towards.

Donald Duck Money GIF
via giphy.com

5. Review my ARCs on time.

This is another goal I’ve noted before, and I’m doing it again because I believe in 2nd, 3rd, 4th chances! Also this is one goal that I just have to get better at. If I want the trust from authors and publishers that means I have to deliver!! Yeah, I’m calling myself out a bit, but it is because I want to do better!

Formula 1 Time GIF by Red Bull Racing
via giphy.com

That’s it from me friends! I hope you are all having a good start to the year and if not then I hope it gets better ❤

I would love to know what you are reading this month and any bookish plans you have for the year! Did you set reading goals? Are you planning any big changes this year? Whatever you will be embarking on this month, I wish you success!

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

The Silvered Serpents | Mini Review + Some Memes I Made to Celebrate

Greetings readers!

Hi again. It’s been a while. The semester has me pretty busy these past couple of weeks and will continue to keep me pretty busy, so I apologize for my absence in advance.

ANYWAYS I am very happy to be bringing this review to you all today! I have been highly anticipated the sequel to The Gilded Wolves since I finished it..a few months ago XD! Yes, I know some people waited over a year for the sequel and I only waited a few months, but still this series is a hard one to wait for. And now I am in the same dilemma because oh my goodness THIS BOOK!

The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi

The Silvered Serpents (The Gilded Wolves, #2)
via Goodreads

They are each other’s fiercest love, greatest danger, and only hope.

Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but victory came at a terrible cost — one that still haunts all of them. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumored to grant its possessor the power of God.

Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into the icy heart of Russia where crystalline ice animals stalk forgotten mansions, broken goddesses carry deadly secrets, and a string of unsolved murders makes the crew question whether an ancient myth is a myth after all.

As hidden secrets come to the light and the ghosts of the past catch up to them, the crew will discover new dimensions of themselves. But what they find out may lead them down paths they never imagined.

A tale of love and betrayal as the crew risks their lives for one last job.

Returning to the dark and glamorous 19th century world of her New York Times instant bestseller, The Gilded Wolves, Roshani Chokshi dazzles us with another riveting tale as full of mystery and danger as ever in The Silvered Serpents.


*Many thanks to Raincoast Books for the ARC*

  • I loved jumping back into this world. I loved that we traveled from France to Russia and got to spend most of our time in a magical place of winter and ice! (Elsa, is that you?)
  • These characters are still absolutely phenomenal! Laila and Zofia are still my QUEENs! Hypnos was a little sus here and there, but I love that he was a ray of sunshine always and I apologize for suspecting him! Enrique is still the character I identify the most with. My whole heart belongs to him! And Severin. He needed some serious perspective in this book, but *screeches in feels* OH MY GOSH. Eva? I would still fight her.
  • So this is a treasure hunt book and I absolutely love it! Portals, secret rooms, libraries, alternate worlds, myths, legends and so much more to enjoy in this incredible novel!
  • Roshani’s writing is as stunning as ever! She knows how to wrap you in beauty and make you suffer at the same time. The anticipation and suspense in this book is intense. We might be waiting for things to happen, but there is honestly never a dull moment.
  • The romance dynamics are complicated in this one! Remember how I said Severin needed some perspective, a lot of that was in reference to Laila! The yearning was INTENSE. And it didn’t end at them, the Hypnos x Enrique x Zofia also came with the yearning and complications and honestly…I am here for this drama. I live for it. But as much as it is dramatic, the romance is also very poetic: involving self-love and forgiveness and regret. “I wish my love was more beautiful.” <– I cried.
  • I doubted myself to the very end on everything. About who the bad guy was, about how this book would end…that’s how good Roshani is as a story teller! She keeps you guessing and it is so much fun!
  • I need book 3 in hands right now. After that ending…OH MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS ME. This book packed the punches. Emotionally, it might wreck you as it did me! The chase for divinity is not a straightforward path and sacrifices must be made. But above all, it is a gorgeous and lush tale of love and betrayal in the hopes of salvation!

Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Recommend!: Absolutely! This series is not one to miss!

The Silvered Serpents Meme-i-fied

I made these memes in honour of the release of TSS and I thought I’d re-share them here! If you find them funny, I’ll be taking up a degree on comedic genius, thank you very much!

If not…you are welcome to move along.

I think this might be my best meme ever.
Finding homonyms is harder than you think!

Let me know what you think! What was your favourite sequel of the year? Which Gilded Wolves character is your favourite! (I know it is so hard to choose!) Have you ever made a book-related meme? Do share links!

*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

read

A Touch of Death | Review // A Post-Apocalyptic Quest

Greetings readers!

It only took me forever to finally put this review together! I would like to send my thank yous to the author for proving me a review copy in exchange for an honest review!

If you guys are looking for a dark read at the end of this spooky month, I definitely recommend checking this out!

A Touch of Death by Rebecca Crunden

A Touch of Death (The Outlands Pentalogy #1)

Pub Date: Feb 23rd, 2017
Goodreads

A thousand years in the future, the last of humanity live inside the walls of the totalitarian Kingdom of Cutta. The rich live in Anais, the capital city of Cutta, sheltered from the famine and disease which ravage the rest of the Kingdom. Yet riches and power only go so far, and even Anaitians can be executed. It is only by the will of the King that Nate Anteros, son of the King’s favourite, is spared from the gallows after openly dissenting. But when he’s released from prison, Nate disappears.

A stark contrast, Catherine Taenia has spent her entire life comfortable and content. The daughter of the King’s Hangman and in love with Thom, Nate’s younger brother, her life has always been easy, ordered and comfortable. That is, where it doesn’t concern Nate. His actions sullied not only his future, but theirs. And unlike Thom, Catherine has never forgiven him.

Two years pass without a word, and then one night Nate returns. But things with Nate are never simple, and when one wrong move turns their lives upside down, the only thing left to do is run where the King’s guards cannot find them – the Outlands. Those wild, untamed lands which stretch around the great walls of the Kingdom, filled with mutants and rabids.


Review

Catherine is someone who thinks she comes off as the quiet docile type, but is actually quite ferocious and I like it. She has bite and opinions and you will hear them! She comes from a very privileged background and reading her fall from grace and seeing her realization of the corruption of the society she was so closely tied to was really interesting!

Nate was interesting if still a little enigmatic throughout the book! A disgraced son and criminal who is wanted by the law and seen the horrors of prison.  He is the tragic rebel who wants to destroy the system that has killed so many! Honestly though I feel like we didn’t get much about him. The author wrote a lot about Catherine’s inner thoughts, but we lacked that depth with Nate.

This post-apocalyptic world was a doozy to wrap my head around at first, but thankfully as the story went on I was able to understand it a lot better! The kingdom we are thrown into is cutthroat and strict from the get-go. Any dissenters are punished and what little freedoms the citizens do have are actually manipulated by the regime in control. I thought it was really well-crafted in the end! And while the details around the Mutants and Outlands were still a little fuzzy, I have a feeling more exploration of those come in the sequels!

The plot itself is quite gritty and evenly paced. As our two main characters are on the run from authority, we are constantly moving and discovering new places and people! I also liked the timer that was put on their lives with the disease that is coursing through their bodies and killing Nate!  I will say though that the beginning sequence is just a whirlwind and I was a confused. It took me a while to understand why they were on the run and what the danger was.  And yet their resolution to their problems is not the greatest or well thought out. *spoiler* calling Nate’s mom is their best bet? Seriously? Not really a great idea *End of Spoiler*

The romance…It took me a while to get comfortable with it, but honestly I think it is well written. It’s complicated and I cannot really say I ship the characters together yet, although I am leaning towards a yes!

The whole ending sequence was WOW! I seriously went through a roller coaster of emotions! It was intense and all that build up finally paid off! Even though the reason they got into the situation was meh, I’ll forgive it for the drama that the last 20% gave me! It was tragic and full of fury! My heart hurt by the end! But I was also full of so much respect for Catherine and the things she went through!

The final-final scene might have not been the most cliff-hangery but the despair and hope that it leaves behind was quite an experience!!


Overall, this book is an experience, but an interesting one! It has grit and it’s dark! Running from a cruel and corrupt regime always makes for a gruelling and entertaining adventure! Mix in some romantic drama and suspense, and you get this great story!

Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars

Recommend: Yes! There is definitely room for some post-apocalyptic fun on your shelves!

Let me know what you think! What post-apocalyptic books do you love? Have you read this story? What do you envision the future to look like?

*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

A Golden Fury | Blog Tour Excerpt // New Historical Fantasy sure to make our shelves even more magical!

Greetings readers!

Welcome one, welcome all to the blog tour for A GOLDEN FURY by Samantha Cohoe!

This new YA historical fantasy novel brings a new dark magic to our shelves! And I for one am very excited to read this one! Alchemy and magical schools always call for a grand adventure and mystery. Just from reading the synopsis I can tell that this book is going to bring the girl power, high stakes and dark secrets to unravel!

Read on for a sneak peek into this new amazing book!

~ The Book ~

Title: A Golden Fury
Author: Samantha Cohoe
Pub Date: Oct 13, 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books
ISBN: 9781250220400

BUY THE BOOK

Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.

While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists.

But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.

A GOLDEN FURY and the curse of the Philosopher’s Stone will haunt you long after the final page.

*A Nerd Daily YA Debut to Watch Out for in 2020*

“Cohoe transmutes the legend of the Philosopher’s Stone into a dark, intoxicating tale of ambition, obsession, and sacrifice. Prepare for a magic that will consume you.”
– Rosamund Hodge, New York Times bestselling author of Cruel Beauty and Bright Smoke, Cold Fire

~ Author ~

Samantha Cohoe writes historically-inspired young adult fantasy. She was raised in San Luis Obispo, California, where she enjoyed an idyllic childhood of beach trips, omnivorous reading, and writing stories brimming with adverbs. She currently lives in Denver with her family and divides her time among teaching Latin, mothering, writing, reading, and deleting adverbs. A Golden Fury is her debut novel.

Visit Samantha: Twitter | Instagram

Visit Wednesday Books: Twitter | Instagram


~ EXCERPT ~

To celebrate the release with you today, I have the pleasure of sharing an excerpt of CHAPTER 1 today! And boy let me tell you is it intriguing! I mean just look at that very first line! I would love to hear your thoughts on it!

My mother was screaming at the Comte. Again.

I slammed the front doors behind me and walked down the carriageway, under the dappled shade of the pop- lars that lined it. A hundred paces away, I still heard her, though at least I could no longer hear the Comte’s frantic endearments and low, rapid pleading. He should know by now that wasn’t the way. Perhaps I should tell him. Adrien was the first of my mother’s patrons I had ever liked, and I did not want to leave Normandy just as spring was break- ing. Just as we were beginning to make progress.

Though perhaps we were not. Mother would not be screaming at the Comte if the work were going well. She would not take the time. Alchemy was a demanding sci- ence, even if some scoffed and called it charlatanry or magic. It required total concentration. If the work were going well, the Comte would scarcely exist to her, nor would I, now that she would not let me be of use. The com- position must have broken again. This was about when it had, last round. I could not be certain, since she had taken away my key to the laboratory. She could hardly have de-vised a worse insult than that if she had tried, and lately she did seem to be trying. The laboratory was mine as much as it was hers. If she did succeed in producing the White Elixir—which turned all metals into silver—then it was only because of my help. She had found Jābir’s text languishing in a Spanish monastery, but it had been I who translated it when her Arabic wasn’t nearly up to the job. I had labored for months over the calcinary furnace to make the philosophic mercury the text took as its starting point. I had the scars on my hands and arms to prove it. And now that success might be close, she wished to shut me out and deny my part, and claim it for herself alone.

But if she was acting ill and cross, it meant she had failed. A low, smug hum of satisfaction warmed me. I didn’t want the work to fail, but I didn’t want her to suc- ceed without me, either.

A distant smashing sound rang out from the chateau. My mother shattering something against the wall, no doubt.

I sighed and shifted my letter box to the crook of my other arm.

I knew what this meant. Another move. Another man. The Comte had lasted longer than the rest. Over two years, long enough that I had begun to hope I would not have to do it all again. I hated the uncertainty of those first weeks, before I knew what was expected of me, whether Mother’s new patron had a temper and what might set it off, whether he liked children to speak or be silent. Though I was no longer a child, and that might bring its own problems. A chill passed over me, despite the warm afternoon sunshine. God only knew what the next one would be like. My mother had already run through so many of them. And with the recent changes in France, there were fewer rich men than ever looking to give patronage to an expensive alchemist, even one as beautiful and famous as Marguerite Hope.

I veered off the carriageway, into the soft spring grass, dotted here and there with the first of the lavender anemo- nes. I sat by the stream, under the plum tree.

There was no screaming here, no pleading, no signs that my life was about to change for the worse. I inhaled the soft, sweet scent of plum blossoms and opened my letter box. If this was to be my last spring in Normandy, I wanted to re- member it like this. Springtime in Normandy was soft and sweet, sun shining brightly and so many things blossoming that the very air was perfumed with promise. Everything was coming extravagantly to life, bursting out of the dead ground and bare trees with so much energy other impos- sible things seemed likely, too. I had always been hopeful in Normandy when it was spring. Especially last spring, when Will was still here. When we sat under this very tree, drank both bottles of champagne he had stolen from the cellars, and spun tales of everything we could achieve.

I took out his last letter, dated two months ago.

Dear Bee,

This is my address now—as you see I’ve left Prussia. It turns out that everything they say about the Prussians is quite true. I’ve never met a more unbending man than my patron there. One day past the appointed date and he tried to throw me in prison for breach of contract! He thinks alchemy can be held to the same strict schedule as his serfs.

Laws against false alchemists were very harsh in Germany, as Will knew full well when he sought patronage there. I had begged him to go somewhere else, though he had few enough choices. He was my mother’s apprentice, with no achievements of his own to make his reputation. His training had been cut abruptly short when Mother found us together under this plum tree, watching the sun- rise with clasped hands and two empty bottles of cham- pagne. She’d seen to it that Will was gone by noon. It was no use telling her that all we’d done was talk through the night, or that the one kiss we’d shared had been our first, and had gone no further. He had behaved with perfect re- spect for me, but she wouldn’t believe it. My mother had imagined a whole path laid before my feet in that moment, and scorched it from the earth with Greek fire.

I turned to the next page.

I blame myself, of course, Bee, for not heeding your advice. I can picture your face now, wondering what I expected. It would almost be worth all the trouble I’ve caused myself if I could come to you and see your expression. You must be the only woman in the world who is never lovelier than when you’ve been proven right.

The keen thrill of pleasure those words had brought me when I first read them had faded now, and left me feeling uncertain. Should I write back knowingly, teasing him for his recklessness? I had tried this, and was sure I sounded like a scold no matter what he said about my loveliness when proven right. I took out my latest draft, which struck a more sincere tone. I read the lines over, saying how I worried for him, how I missed him. I crumpled it in my hand halfway through. Too much emotion. It didn’t do to show such dependence on a man. My mother had shown me that. I didn’t wish to emulate her in everything, but I would be a fool to deny her skill at winning masculine devotion. I tried again.

Dear Will,

I am sitting under the plum tree where we had our last picnic. I know how you feel about nostalgia, but I hope you will forgive me this one instance. I fear this will be our last spring in Normandy—perhaps even in France. Many of my mother’s friends have left already, and though you may well condemn them as reactionaries, the fact remains that there are very few good Republicans with the ready cash to pay for our pursuits.

I sighed again and crumpled the page. Somehow I could never seem to write to him about the Revolution without a touch of irony creeping in. I didn’t want that. Will had put his hopes for a better world in the new order, and even though I was less hopeful than he, I loved him for it. At least he wanted a better world. Most alchemists simply wanted better metals.

I tried to imagine he was here. It wouldn’t be difficult then. He was so good at setting me at ease. His admira- tion was as intoxicating as wine, but unlike wine it sharp- ened my wits instead of dulling them. I was never cleverer than when Will was there to laugh with me.

My chest constricted at the memory of Will’s laugh. I didn’t know anyone who laughed like him. The Parisian aristocrats I had known all had so much consciousness of the sound they made when they did it. The Comte wasn’t like them, but he was a serious man and laughed rarely. My mother didn’t laugh at all.

But Will. He laughed like it came from the loud, bursting core of him. Like he couldn’t have kept it in if he wanted to, and why would he want to? And when he was done laughing, he would look at me like no one else ever had. Like he saw only me, not as an accessory to my mother, but as myself. And not as an odd girl whose sharp edges would need to be softened. Will liked the edges. The sharper they cut, the more they delighted him.

“Thea!”

I threw my letters into the letter box and snapped it shut. I looked around for somewhere to hide the box, and noticed too late that one of my crumpled drafts had blown toward the stream. My mother appeared on the hill above me, the late afternoon sun lighting up her golden hair like an unearned halo. She walked down the hill with measured steps and stopped a few yards above me, I assumed because she wished to enjoy the experience of being taller than me again for a few moments. Her eye moved to the crumpled paper. I ran to it and stuffed it into my pocket before she could take it, though my haste in hiding the failed letter told her all I didn’t wish her to know.

“Oh dear,” said my mother. “I do hope you haven’t been wasting your afternoon trying to find the right words to say to that boy.”

My mother was tolerant of my letter writing these days, perhaps because she was confident I would never see Will again. She had smiled when she heard of Will’s contract in Prussia. He won’t find it so easy to charm his way past the Prussian alchemy laws. In Germany, one must deliver results, not pretty smiles, or end in prison.

“I wouldn’t have an afternoon to waste if you would let me into the laboratory,” I said.

“Don’t be pitiful, Thea,” said my mother. “Surely you can think of something worthwhile to do when I don’t happen to need your assistance.”

I clenched my teeth so tight that my jaw ached. Shut- ting me out of the laboratory, our laboratory, was the great- est injustice she had ever committed against me. Worse than all the moving about, worse than sending Will away, worse than any insult she could think to level at me. Before she had done that, I believed we were together in alchemy at least, even if nothing else. That she had raised and trained me not simply to be of use to her, but to be her partner. Her equal, one day. Throwing me out of the lab- oratory just when we might achieve what we had worked for told me that Will was right. She would never let me claim credit for my part of the work. She would never ac- cept me as an alchemist in my own right.

And yet she described it as though she had simply let me off my chores. As if I were no more necessary than a servant. There was no point in arguing with her, but even so I could not let it stand.

“I am not your assistant,” I said.

“Oh?” she asked. “Do you have news, then? Have you found a patron on your own merits? Do you intend to strike out on your own?”

“Perhaps I will,” I said, my face growing hot. “Perhaps I will stay here when you are finally finished tormenting the poor Comte.”

My mother had a perfect, deceptively sweet beauty: golden blond and blue-eyed with a round, doll-like face. It made the venom that sometimes twisted her expression hard to quite believe in. Many men simply didn’t. They preferred to ignore the evidence of their minds for the evidence of their senses. I, of course, knew her better than they did. I tensed, preparing.

But instead of lashing out, my mother turned aside, a hand to her chest. A tremor passed over her; she bowed her head against it.

Mother had been strangely unwell for weeks. At first I responded to her illness as she had taught me to, with distaste and disapproval, as though falling sick were an ill-considered pastime of those with insufficient moral for- titude. But if she noticed how unpleasant it was to receive so little sympathy when unwell, she did not show it. She had locked herself away in the laboratory every day until late at night, ignoring my silence as much as she ignored the Comte’s pleas that she rest. I had not thought much of it until this moment. Any pain great enough to turn her from chastising me for thinking I could do alchemy with- out her must be serious indeed.

“Mother?” I asked.

“You will go where I tell you.” Her voice was low and breathless, almost a gasp. “For now, that is to dinner. Wear the green taffeta.”

“The robe à la française?” I asked, perplexed. I hadn’t worn that dress since before the Estates General met. Its style was the hallmark of the ancien régime: wide pan- niered hips, structured bodice, and elaborate flounces. “But it’s out of fashion.”

“So is our guest,” said my mother.

She went up the hill again, then turned back to me at the top.

“Thea,” she said, all the sharpness gone from her voice. “I know you do not believe it any longer, but everything I do is for you.”

It was the sort of thing she always said. Before this year, I had always believed it, more or less. At least, everything she did was for the both of us. She had considered me an extension of herself, so that doing things for me was no different than doing them for herself. Why else take so much care to train me, to see to it that I had the tutors I needed to learn every language necessary—more even than she knew? To take me with her in all her travels to seek out manuscripts? She was an impatient teacher at times, but a good one. A thorough one. And in turn I was a good student. The best.

Until we were close to our goal. Then, suddenly, I was a rival. And my mother did not tolerate rivals.

“You are right, Mother,” I said. “I don’t believe that any longer.”


Let me know what you think! Would you continue reading this book? Are you looking forward to reading this book? What are some of your favourite Historical fiction/fantasy books? If you had access to a secret dangerous power, would you destroy it or keep it for yourself?

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~ Rendz

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