Iron Widow | ARC Book Review + incoherent thoughts

Title: Iron Widow
Author: Xiran Jay Zhao
Publisher: Rock the Boat
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: fans of unhinged, selfish protagonist, Poppy War (similiar to Rin—angry protagonist fighting in a war)
CW: death, war, torture, murder, reference to sexual assault (no on-page depiction), misogyny, suicide ideation, and alcohol depiction

Check out the Goodreads synopsis below!

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

Upon finishing this book I was so incoherent. This was one of my highest anticipated read for 2021 and I’m at loss for words.

OKAY! Before I get into the review, here’s an original piece inspired by the book.
As I was telling my partner about this story, this song came into fruition.
They made this song and this is their interpretation (when Zetian gets out of the chrysalis).
I named the song “Rise from the Chrysalis”

Let’s do my typical Gush / Gripe and then I’ll get into more details with everything.

𝐆𝐔𝐒𝐇:
• Addictive to read. The writing style is simple and straight-forward.
• The relationship developing into a polyamorous relationship, exploring different avenues and boundaries of romantic love.
• I did like how this book made me think about it even a few days later. I love it when books do this.

𝐆𝐑𝐈𝐏𝐄:
• I didn’t feel grounded in the world. Despite this being in a new, vast world, I failed to see beyond the pages (this could be a me thing, though).
• Wish there were more development in the polyam.
• The take on “smashing the patriarchy” in this book.

𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐃𝐄𝐓𝐀𝐈𝐋𝐒

Characters

Wu Zetian: the protagonist, inspired by the only female emperor in Chinese history.
• Angry and unhinged
• pilots mecha
• looks mean, is mean


Li Shimin:
• replace the coffee with alcohol
• pilots the “Vermillion Bird”, is a mecha partner to Zetian
• looks mean, is a cinnamon roll


Gao Yizhi:
• blessed with good looks and money
• superpower is being rich
• looks like a cinnamon roll, can be mean

The Romance

I appreciate how this story develops a love triangle into a polyamorous relationship. I liked that. However, I wished the relationship had more depth into it. As readers, we witness the characters interact and develop however, I feel like the romance could have had more build up especially between everyone and Li Shimin. In saying that, I did like how it explored more avenues in love and to not be bound by just one person and have the ability, trust and openness.

World-building

I loved the premise of this story (sci-fi Chinese inspired world), however, I just wished there were more descriptions and world-building. I wasn’t too familiar with what chrysalis were and what they really looked like until I googled images. I do like straight-forward prose, but I didn’t feel grounded in the world whilst reading this.

Men = bad, women = bad (AKA my biggest gripe) (minor spoilers, ahoy!)

I just have a few qualms regarding Zetian and the narrative: whilst I’m aware this is fiction and Zetian nor the author is not here to “teach” the reader anything (a common emotional and mental burden for many minorities), I can’t help but question how this is a “smashing the patriarchy”.

This is supposed to be smashing down the patriarchy but I feel like it’s just killing evil men.

I failed to see how this was a feminist read because it does not bring women up. Zetian questions the world and the systematic evils whilst simultaneously looking down on other women, especially those who live a life that is viewed as a traditionally feminine role (being a mother, married, etc.). I thought the point of equality should be women could choose their paths in life “traditionally feminine” or not? Furthermore, there’s hardly any positive female relationships throughout this whole novel. Zetian speaks of love for her “Big Sister” (am unsure of her name) yet we the audience never experienced nor witnessed their relationship other than a few flashbacks here and there. How can this ring true to us? Despite Zetian being “for women”, she has very few positive female relationships and interactions. The majority of Zetian’s relationships with women are negative or end negatively. Furthermore, she looks down on others due to their choices (what about survival and social conditioning?) I do hope this means there’s room for growth or exploration in future novels.

One thing that rubbed me the wrong way was how the notion of traditional femininity (for example through the sister and the kind friend) is questioned then rejected and then deemed as “the bad choice”. Instead, reacting in anger and fully rejecting femininity is the “right answer”.

It feels so… binary. There’s no nuance. No discussion. Yes, perhaps finding true equality is to break down the systemic oppression and foundation. Perhaps the answer and the actionable steps will be messy. However, what Zetian truly wants is freedom and choice. Yet, she looks down on other women should they choose to marry or have children?

Also, there’s no discussion regarding her love interest’s complicity in this world. One killed his family due to a horrible circumstance, he feels bad about hurting women… The other, well, his mother was killed by his evil father so naturally, men = bad. Finding Zetian and her morals made them realise, that yes, women do get a say???!!

Whilst there is a passing acknowledgement of privilege and guilt of both her love interests… that’s it?

In a world where everyone is indoctrinated to think and therefore act a certain way, where did they gain this insight? I can understand Zetian’s thought process as she’s endured the hardship. But the men? They are most comfortable in this world. They have the most to gain. Especially, the rich love interest. How did he dismantle his thinking? His mother died? Right, that would fuel his fire to hate his father and to jump onto the father issues bandwagon…

Let’s talk about the family dynamics.
From Zetian’s point of view, her family has failed her due to their complicity and their treatment towards her. In response to her family failing Zetian, she kills them. I can’t get over how Zetian kills her own family. In cold blood. Yes, her family wasn’t good to her. I’m not here to defend either action, because there is no excuse for abuse. Let me reiterate: there is no excuse for abuse.

I wanted to scrutinise Zetian and her relationship between her mother (and grandmother). Zetian states she would want it better for her mother and grandmother… but let’s look a little deeper, shall we?? Zetian states her mother plays the role of being subservient to the father.

“It’s not about having it easy. It’s about keeping peace in the family.”

Zetian’s mother to Zetian

“She’d [the mother] step cautiously around him [the father] as if he were a bomb, worrying about her every move for fear of setting him off.”

Hmmm… this quote and scenario reminds me of abuse… Walking on eggshells with your partner, being afraid, not being able to be open, difficult to say “no”, partner dictates everything… Yeah, it sounds like abuse. Perhaps the mother is a victim of abuse and remains complicit in it towards Zetian. However, it’s important to note how hard it is to get out. So hard!! How can her mother and grandmother break such a vicious traumatic cycle?? With no therapy or support or knowledge? In a world where women solely rely on men (their husbands), how will they survive? How? Zetian wants her mum to create a scene, to fight back for her. But how? There’s no resources. There’s no help. Whilst Zetian may not be afraid to die, that doesn’t mean other people want to. Zetian vilifies/looks down on her mother (which, sounds like the mother is a victim of either domestic/emotional/mental abuse). There’s no redemption for them. Just death. I…

“You tell them over and over, until it’s the only truth they’re capable of living.”

The rage is natural and understandable. However, challenging and breaking down systems with cold blood murder and no remorse or afterthought? I really don’t think killing people in cold blood is the answer. Because it begs the question, who gives you authority to deem who dies and who doesn’t?

“It is not me who is wrong. It’s everyone else.”

Zetian

Whilst I enjoyed this, these characters are definitely not the heroes.

I really am convinced that this is a villain origin story, in which I don’t mind. In fact, I love selfish female main characters!!! But don’t sell me that this is how you smash the patriarchy—with NO rationale logic, no compassion or empathy for anyone but your love interests.

Zetian is flawed and unhinged. As an audience, we see her wrath and rage. It’s palpable. It’s understandable, even. However, I don’t think she’s someone we should deem a hero. I cannot agree killing innocent is the answer to smashing the patriarchy (friends, this is a war crime help). Nor do I agree with the whole hypocrisy of it all.

“I’ve destroyed the Kaihuang watchtower. I did not care who was in there.”

Zetian

The thing is, I don’t mind questionable morals and morally grey characters (love unhinged and selfish characters) but what really unsettled me was the fact that the narrative never questions Zetian’s actions or morals. Instead, we’re positioned to think that every move Zetian calls for a cheer and that THIS is how you break down the patriarchy. Yay! You killed your only female friend because she betrayed you (never mind the fact that she had her two toddler children held as hostages). Yay! You killed your own mother! Yay! You tortured and killed a man! Yay! You tore down a whole fucking tower with people in it. Innocents? What’s that! War crime? Never heard of her!!!!

There is literally this quote right here:

“New bargain: defy us, and all of you and your family will die!”

Whoa, what the fuck.

For a topic as complex as breaking down systematic misogyny and the patriarchy, I feel like there needs to be a range of discussion, a messy journey of learning and unlearning and questioning everything including yourself. Everyone needs to take the internal journey and intentionally address their own bias and comfort. Unfortunately, this did not happen to that extent throughout the novel.

There’s no nuance. There’s no conversation. Just death.

Despite my gripes, I do hope that this means there’s consequences and growth in future novels. I am curious to see where this will go.

𝐈𝐧 𝐚 𝐧𝐮𝐭𝐬𝐡𝐞𝐥𝐥, 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞:
✔ Pacific Rim / Zoids / Gundam Wing / Neon Genesis Evangelion / mecha vibes
✔ Poly love triangle (finally!!)
✔ Unhinged main character taking on the patriarchy with her own bare hands in her own manner
✔ inspired by East Asian mythology and historical figures

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐬: misogyny, sexism

𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫: fans of unhinged, selfish protagonist, Poppy War (similar character dynamics—angry protagonist fighting in a war)

𝐂𝐖: death, war, torture, murder, reference to sexual assault (no on-page depiction), misogyny, suicide ideation, and alcohol depiction

Thank you to @NetGalley and the publisher (Rock the Boat) for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

𝘗𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘦: 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘲𝘶𝘰𝘵𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘤𝘪𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘢𝘯 𝘈𝘥𝘷𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘙𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘊𝘰𝘱𝘺 (𝘈𝘙𝘊) 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘮𝘢𝘺 𝘣𝘦 𝘴𝘶𝘣𝘫𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦 𝘶𝘱𝘰𝘯 𝘱𝘶𝘣𝘭𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯.

Have you read this? Will you be reading Iron Widow?
If you’ve read this, what’s your thoughts on it?

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Jade Fire Gold | Book Review + Tour

Hello and welcome to my stop. Here, this post will include a review, creative content (music), and favourite quotes.
Many thanks to @CaffeineTours and Harper Teen for the opportunity take part in this tour.

You can check out the Tour Schedule here.

UK edition
Art: Aaron Munday
US edition
Art: GUWEIZ


Title: Jade Fire Gold
Author: June CL Tan
Publisher: Harper Teen (US)
Age group: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: fans of character-driven stories, fans of YA fantasy,
On-page Representation: POC (Chinese-coded characters), LGBTQ+ (Sapphic, gay)
Trigger and Content Warnings: self-harm (gouging, eye horror; non-graphic), child abuse (physical, verbal, emotional manipulation/gaslighting), parent death (implied, off-page), character deaths, mentions and descriptions of fantasy/magical violence (blood, war, political violence), mentions and descriptions of physical symptoms that might be triggering to those with emetophobia, alcohol consumption

Check out the Goodreads synopsis below!

Girls of Paper and Fire meets The Tiger at Midnight in June CL Tan’s stunning debut, inspired by Chinese mythology, with rich magic and an epic slow-burn romance.

In an empire on the brink of war . . .

Ahn is no one, with no past and no family.

Altan is a lost heir, his future stolen away as a child.

When they meet, Altan sees in Ahn a path to reclaiming the throne. Ahn sees a way to finally unlock her past and understand her arcane magical abilities.

But they may have to pay a far deadlier price than either could have imagined.

Ferocious action, shadowy intrigue, and a captivating romance collide in June CL Tan’s debut, a stunning homage to the Xianxia novel with a tender, beating heart, perfect for fans of The Bone Witch and We Hunt the Flame.

I asked my partner to create music to accompany this book.
I thought this tune was so fitting and atmospheric whilst read the book—especially at tense times!
Feel free to listen to it.

I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book from the publisher and Caffeine Book Tours as part of my participation in their tour.

OKAY. First things first, we’ve all read the synopsis? Yes? Yes! Now, let me get this off my chest:

This book was pitched as ‘Avatar the Last Airbender’ inspired! More specifically, inspired by Zutara (Zuko X Katara) dynamics??? My little twelve-year-old self is celebrating. OUR TIME HAS COME!!! Zutara!!!! 😩😭🎉

Yes, please play the song included above as it adds to the hype. Trust me.

AND THEN! Not only does this novel pays homage to Xianxia (Chinese fantasy influenced byChinese mythology, martial arts, religion, and other traditional elements) perfect for fans of We Hunt the Flame?? Good-bye, monies!

Yes, as exemplified above, Jade Fire Gold was a highly anticipated read.

Alright, now that’s out of my system, the review time.

Told in dual POV, we follow Ahn, the orphaned girl with a mysterious past and Altan, an exiled prince with revenge on his mind. When their paths in twined Ahn sees the opportunity to unlock her memories and powers whilst Altan see this as a means to avenge his family and reclaim the throne.

However, in order to gain, one must give. And the two may have bargained more than they can pay.

𝐖𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠:
The writing is simple and easy to follow which makes the narrative easily digestible. Despite the writing being quite straightforward, it paints beautiful scenery, strong emotions, and great attention into little details which are important aspects (such s as weaponry, colour and clothing).

However, my main concern whilst reading this was that I found the pacing jarring at times. For example, there would be moments where I feel like I was trudging through the desert, in the middle of the day with no water (this was only the first ~30%). And then there are times were it feels like we’re rushing through a whirlwind of events.

Of course, this could be a “me” thing as I like to get into the ‘meat’ of the plot early in the book soo I can divulge myself with more details throughout the journey. Don’t let this deter you!

𝐖𝐨𝐫𝐥𝐝-𝐛𝐮𝐢𝐥𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠:
I’m a huge fan of Asian mythology and Asian-inspired stories, so I found it enjoyable finding little nuggets or Lore sprinkles throughout the novel.

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐬:
Ahn: one of the protagonist starts off naive and I found her passive at the beginning but I did like how she started to develop and become more confident and critical.

Altan: I found it hard to connect to his character due to his angst, however, I did come to appreciate his character. I liked how he started becoming more open and honest.

𝐑𝐨𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞:
I admit I’m a huge sucker for the enemies-to-lovers trope, I enjoy it mainly because I love seeing the relationship develop over time (and often begrudgingly 😏) and I love the banter. In this case, there was no romance until about halfway, which I didn’t mind it so! I just wished we could’ve seen the two develop their relationship more. As I really enjoyed reading Ahn and Altan’s interactions and dynamics.

𝐆𝐔𝐒𝐇:
• The writing is simple and easy which made this book quick to fly though
• Intriguing world-building yet consists of common elements in a YA Fantasy, therefore perfect for those who enjoy certain tropes (Royal characters, reunited with someone, dislike to like, finding the magical artefact, etc.) and genres (fantasy).

𝐆𝐑𝐈𝐏𝐄:
• The pacing at times (tit took me a while to get into the first 30% or so of the book but then I got so hooked after that)

• Why was there a need to put chopsticks in ones hair?? That really took me out.

Being of Asian descent and being a diaspora, I’m aware of the historical context of the use of chopsticks in the hair and the micro aggression regarding that. However, I acknowledge that I am not a Chinese and therefore, perhaps I’m not familiar with all the nuance.

Edit:

I read another review and noted that the author responded to concerns regarding chopsticks in the hair. I suggest you check out this review!

The author stated that the chopsticks were not for use of eating but rather a concealed weapon.

𝐈𝐧 𝐚 𝐧𝐮𝐭𝐬𝐡𝐞𝐥𝐥, 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞:
✔ Zutara inspired dynamics (exiled Prince X peasant girl with mysterious powers)
✔ forbidden magic
✔ East Asian (Chinese) mythology inspired fantasy

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐬: empire (explores imperialism), legacy, fate, choice, and power

𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫: fans of character driven stories, fans of YA fantasy or new to or enjoy Xianxia or Chinese influenced mythology

𝐂𝐖: death, war, gore, torture, murder

Thank you to Caffeine Tours and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Some favourite quotes:

“𝐇𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲 𝐢𝐬 𝐧𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐰𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐧 𝐛𝐲 𝐢𝐭𝐬 𝐯𝐢𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐬.”

“𝐈𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐢𝐜𝐞. 𝐁𝐮𝐭 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬: 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐢𝐜𝐞 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐢𝐭𝐬 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐞𝐪𝐮𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐦𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐰𝐞𝐢𝐠𝐡 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐞𝐪𝐮𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬.”

“𝐒𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞𝐬, 𝐝𝐨𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐧𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐬𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐝𝐨.”

June CL Tan grew up in Singapore where she was raised on a diet of classic books and wuxia movies, caffeine and congee. She holds various degrees in communication studies, education, and film. After teaching for a few years, she took a detour into the finance industry. To no one’s surprise, she soon realized her mistake and made her escape. Now, she resides in New York City, talking to imaginary people and creating fantastical worlds under the watchful eye of her crafty cat. She enjoys telling stories that draw on both the traditional and modern to create something fresh to the eye, but familiar to the heart. Jade Fire Gold is her debut novel. 

Website | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | TikTok

Again, please feel free to follow the next tour stops. The Tour Schedule can be found here.

Have you read this? Will you be reading Jade Fire Gold?

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Lakesedge | Book Review

UK edition
US edition

Title: Lakesedge
Author: Lyndall Clipstone
Publisher: Titan Books
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: fans of gothic romance fantasy, fans of For the Wolf, House of Salt and Sorrow, fans of flowery writing
CW: emotional + physical parental abuse, body horror, gore, exploration of death + grief, drowning, self-injury (e.g. cutting)

Check out the Goodreads synopsis below!

A lush gothic fantasy about monsters and magic, set on the banks of a cursed lake. Perfect for fans of Naomi Novik and Brigid Kemmerer.

There are monsters in the world.

When Violeta Graceling arrives at haunted Lakesedge estate, she expects to find a monster. She knows the terrifying rumors about Rowan Sylvanan, who drowned his entire family when he was a boy. But neither the estate nor the monster are what they seem.

There are monsters in the woods.

As Leta falls for Rowan, she discovers he is bound to the Lord Under, the sinister death god lurking in the black waters of the lake. A creature to whom Leta is inexplicably drawn…

There’s a monster in the shadows, and now it knows my name.

Now, to save Rowan—and herself—Leta must confront the darkness in her past, including unraveling the mystery of her connection to the Lord Under.

𝐆 𝐔𝐒𝐇:
• Dark, gothic read incorporating a simple yet beautiful writing style. The beautiful descriptors evoke a rich and eerie atmosphere. Normally, I enjoy a straightforward type of writing, but here the narrative was fun and easy to read.
• Intriguing premise with promising concepts—magic? Broody love interest with a mysterious past? Suffocating atmosphere and spooky mansions? Yes, please!

𝐆𝐑𝐈𝐏𝐄:
• I know I mentioned how I enjoyed the writing, however, I understand that it won’t be for everyone. The flowery language paints pretty pictures and can get repetitive if you’re not a fan or think about it too closely (I don’t know what silt and shadows taste like? And I’m not sure I want to…)
• Whilst I somewhat like the main character, she can seem a bit too self-sacrificial at times and her poor choices™ did frustrate me more than once. I also didn’t appreciate how she never communicates anything with anyone!! Despite promising her younger brother that “we’ll figure things out together” she runs out and does things herself with no consideration of anyone. I really empathise with her younger brother. How can someone be so “selfless” and selfish at the same time??
• I really enjoyed the first part of the book and then… arghhh!!! Why did I think this was a stand-alone??

𝐈𝐧 𝐚 𝐧𝐮𝐭𝐬𝐡𝐞𝐥𝐥, 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞:
✔ monster boys
✔ sibling love
✔ eerie atmospheric reads

“𝐈’𝐯𝐞 𝐬𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐝𝐚𝐫𝐤𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐧 𝐡𝐢𝐦 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐨 𝐚 𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐫.
𝐈’𝐯𝐞 𝐬𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐢𝐭 𝐟𝐞𝐝 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐟𝐞𝐥𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐥𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐢𝐭𝐬 𝐡𝐮𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐫.
𝐀𝐧𝐝 𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐈 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐛𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐡 𝐢𝐭𝐬 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐭.”

~ 𝑳𝒚𝒏𝒅𝒂𝒍𝒍 𝑪𝒍𝒊𝒑𝒔𝒐𝒏𝒆, 𝑳𝒂𝒌𝒆𝒔𝒆𝒅𝒈𝒆

Please note: This is NOT a stand-alone.

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐬: first love, sacrificing yourself for others

𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫: fans of gothic romance fantasy, fans of For the Wolf, House of Salt and Sorrow, Down Comes the Night

𝐂𝐖: emotional + physical parental abuse, body horror, gore, exploration of death + grief, drowning, self-injury (e.g. cutting)

Thank you to @NetGalley and the publisher (Titan Books) for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

𝘗𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘦: 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘲𝘶𝘰𝘵𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘤𝘪𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘢𝘯 𝘈𝘥𝘷𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘙𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘊𝘰𝘱𝘺 (𝘈𝘙𝘊) 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘮𝘢𝘺 𝘣𝘦 𝘴𝘶𝘣𝘫𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦 𝘶𝘱𝘰𝘯 𝘱𝘶𝘣𝘭𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯.

Are you reading any spooky reads this month?
Otherwise, what do you plan to read?

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I Hate You More | Book Review

Title: I Hate You More
Author: Lucy Gilmore
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
𝗦𝗽𝗶𝗰𝗲: 🌶 🌶
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: fans of light-hearted romance, dogs, ambitious main characters
CW: mentions starving oneself, mentions gambling

Check out the Goodreads synopsis below!

Discover what makes Lucy Gilmore an instant fan favorite with this unforgettably funny enemies-to-lovers romcom starring:
• a grumpy dog show judge
• a determined former beauty queen
• and a Golden Retriever more interested in stealing bacon than winning Best in Show.


Ruby Taylor gave up pageant life the day she turned eighteen and figured she’d never look back. But when an old friend begs her to show her beloved Golden Retriever at the upcoming Canine Classic, Ruby reluctantly straps on her heels and gets to work.

If only she knew exactly what the adorably lazy lump of a dog was getting her into.

If there’s one thing veterinarian Spencer Wilson knows in this world, it’s dogs. Human beings are an entirely different animal. Especially stubborn, gorgeous women clearly in way over their heads. As judge for the local dog show, Spencer advises Ruby to quit while she still can, but her old fervor for winning has returned―and she wants to show the stern, broody-eyed judge that she’s more than just a pretty face. In the end, she’ll show him who’s best in show.

With many years of beauty pageantry under her belt and a taciturn Golden Retriever in lead, Ruby Taylor has what it takes to make her dog win the dog show. Never mind the fact that Wheezy, the Golden Retriever with questionable heritage, isn’t really her dog or may not respond to commands. Or calls. Or anything, really. But with a self-proclaimed dog trainer and numerous cheeseburgers in hand, Ruby and Wheezy have what it takes to win. The only thing standing in her way of winning is one particular dog show judge—Spencer Wilson.

As a veterinarian and dog show judge, Spencer thinks it’s an absolute joke and offence to the Classic Canine show that Wheezy, a mutt, is here to win. But with Ruby’s grit determination and Wheezy’s unique charm, they may just win more than a gold medal.

𝐆𝐔𝐒𝐇:
• The premise alone lured me to this book because who doesn’t love dogs, a veterinarian + dog judge love interest, and a dog pageant?!
• I liked the characters here: the star of the show, Wheezy, the questionable Golden Retriever was the cutest! The main character, Ruby, was ambitious, determined, and strived for more. The love interest was taciturn, strict, yet genuine and shy. The side characters (Mrs Orson, Eva, Caleb, etc.) were fun and endearing.
• This was an entertaining, cute quick read with funny and heart-warming moments. There was little spice but not too much.

𝐆𝐑𝐈𝐏𝐄:
• The relationship lacked depth. Whilst I enjoyed the two main characters and their interactions, I failed to see how their attractions developed into love and how they claimed to have loved each other.
• Some scenes felt like it came out of nowhere? I had to reread certain parts to ensure I did read it right.
• I appreciate how they wanted the MC (Ex-beauty pageant) to be more than her looks, however, the story constantly referred her to her outward appearance and it felt counterproductive at times.

𝐈𝐧 𝐚 𝐧𝐮𝐭𝐬𝐡𝐞𝐥𝐥, 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞:
✔ dogs
✔ grumpy X sunshine characters
✔ enemies (sort of) to lovers
✔ slow-burn romance

“𝐘𝐨𝐮 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐝𝐨 𝐚𝐧𝐲𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐩𝐮𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐨. 𝐓𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐢𝐭 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐚 𝐰𝐨𝐦𝐚𝐧 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐟𝐚𝐫 𝐭𝐨𝐨 𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐲𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐬 𝐝𝐨𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐬𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐨𝐥𝐝. 𝐋𝐢𝐟𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐬𝐨 𝐦𝐮𝐜𝐡 𝐛𝐞𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐥𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐢𝐭 𝐨𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐨𝐰𝐧 𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐦𝐬.”

~ 𝑳𝒖𝒄𝒚 𝑮𝒊𝒍𝒎𝒐𝒓𝒆, 𝑰 𝑯𝒂𝒕𝒆 𝒀𝒐𝒖 𝑴𝒐𝒓𝒆

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐬: self-acceptance, family dynamics

𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫: fans of light-hearted romance, dogs, ambitious main characters

𝐂𝐖: mentions starving oneself, mentions gambling

Thank you to @NetGalley and the publisher (Sourcebook Casablanca) for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 𝐌𝐲 𝐟𝐮𝐥𝐥 𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐛𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐧 𝐦𝐲 𝐛𝐥𝐨𝐠: 𝐛𝐨𝐨𝐤𝐬𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡𝐣𝐨𝐲.𝐜𝐨𝐦 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐛𝐞 𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐨𝐧 𝐦𝐲 𝐛𝐥𝐨𝐠 𝐮𝐩𝐨𝐧 𝐩𝐮𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐝𝐚𝐭𝐞.

𝘗𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘦: 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘲𝘶𝘰𝘵𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘤𝘪𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘢𝘯 𝘈𝘥𝘷𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘙𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘊𝘰𝘱𝘺 (𝘈𝘙𝘊) 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘮𝘢𝘺 𝘣𝘦 𝘴𝘶𝘣𝘫𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦 𝘶𝘱𝘰𝘯 𝘱𝘶𝘣𝘭𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯.

This book will be published on 2 November 2021, check it out!

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My Book Decluttering Journey (so far)

Back in February I counted all the hardback books I owned and discovered it was a total of 130-ish books. It may not look like a large sum of books for many, but before I started book blogging, I hardly owned any books (at most, like, 3 books) as I grew up being a library user and could never justify owning books as I moved a lot when I lived alone. However, everything changed upon joining Bookstagram. I fell down the rabbit hole of thinking I needed to own hardcover books of everything. Because, how else could I post books on Bookstagram, a visual platform of social media? (This is another topic for later…) So to me, owning 3 books to 130-ish books is a lot. Not only am I running out of shelf-space, I’m also drowning in my TBR. Please help

After a year, I’ve accumulated over 100 books. Whilst I love owning books, I feel like it weighs me down in terms of space and clutter. I want to curate my space with books I love and would enjoy re-reading and sharing. If you haven’t already seen it, I’ve written a post on How to Declutter Books (it’s mainly a post calling out myself lol). Anyway, this post is to see my progress on how I am with decluttering my books. This post is to keep myself accountable and also, I love making figures and tables.

Now, without further ado… let’s see how much damage I’ve done!

Number of Hardback Books I own in 2021

MonthBooks owned start of monthBooks I boughtBooks I declutteredTotal books at end of month
January136+ 2– 5133
February133+ 5– 4134
March134+ 5– 4135
April135+ 6– 2143
May143+ 40147
June147+ 30150
July150+ 9– 5154
August154+ 5* (pending)pending lol159*
Table 1. The total number of books I owned, bought, and decluttered each month of 2021.

Books owned at start of the year, January: 136.

Books owned at time of post (August): 159.

In January I did so well, decluttering 5 books and only purchasing 2! And then you see my rapid decline in decluttering books from May onwards. Obviously, I’m not doing that well because in the span of 8 months I have gained +23 books.

23 books!

But hey! I’m supporting authors, so yay! At least, that’s what I’m telling myself right now…

Although, in my defence, a major excuse factor that stops me from decluttering is the fact that I haven’t had time due to my city in lockdown for the past 2 months (woohoo, Sydney) and me being a HCW trying to confine my movement . And for August I’ve put aside a bunch of books I plan to declutter, which is about 8-9 books.

I don’t have a specific number of books I want to own, but I do want to be picky with what I own. Anyway, I’m glad to see my progress on this constant journey. Progress, not perfection!

PS. I didn’t count my books at the start of the year and had to do some MaTheMatiCS to figure this all out. So I’m very happy I managed to figure out the exact numbers! Hahaha… help. You wouldn’t believe that I was that kid who used to do advanced mathematics (secondary level) in primary school lmaooooo where are my braincells now???

Do you declutter your books?

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Like A Love Song | Book Review

Title: Like a Love Song
Author: Gabriela Martins
Publisher: Underlined
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: ★★★★
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: fans of YA contemporary, fake-dating trope, and cute, fluffy romance
CW: racism, public humiliation

Check out the Goodreads synopsis below!

This debut paperback original romance follows a Latina teen pop star whose image takes a dive after a messy public breakup, until she’s set up with a swoon-worthy fake boyfriend.

Fake boyfriend. Real heartbreak?

Natalie is living her dream: topping the charts and setting records as a Brazilian pop star…until she’s dumped spectacularly on live television. Not only is it humiliating—it could end her career.

Her PR team’s desperate plan? A gorgeous yet oh-so-fake boyfriend. Nati reluctantly agrees, but William is not what she expected. She was hoping for a fierce bad boy—not a soft-hearted British indie film star. While she fights her way back to the top with a sweet and surprisingly swoon-worthy boy on her arm, she starts to fall for William—and realizes that maybe she’s the biggest fake of them all. Can she reclaim her voice and her heart?

Honestly, this was such a cute and entertaining read!

𝐆𝐔𝐒𝐇:
• Light-hearted, fast-paced and fun read
• This book explores assimilation and how it connects to one’s identity (I could personally relate to this aspect and appreciate reading it because I haven’t read many books that explore this). I love how it delves into one’s culture and the importance of self-acceptance and love. My younger self definitely needed a book like this!
• Positive female friendship. I adored how they celebrated and brought each other up. Love it.
• Love Nati’s growth and her journey.
• Would’ve loved this and needed this book when I was younger!

𝐆𝐑𝐈𝐏𝐄:
• Maybe it’s just me, but I would’ve appreciated more communication on William’s end, especially towards the end of the book.

𝐈𝐧 𝐚 𝐧𝐮𝐭𝐬𝐡𝐞𝐥𝐥, 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞:
✔ fake-dating trope
✔ golden retriever/cinnamon roll love interest
✔ only one bed
✔ opposites attract
✔ celebrity main characters

“𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐝𝐨 𝐈 𝐭𝐞𝐥𝐥 𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐈 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐛𝐞 𝐛𝐨𝐭𝐡 𝐨𝐮𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐠𝐞𝐝 𝐚𝐭 𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐭 𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐮𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐚𝐥𝐬𝐨 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐰𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐠𝐨 𝐛𝐚𝐜𝐤 𝐭𝐨 𝐦𝐲 𝐡𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭𝐫𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐨 𝐯𝐨𝐥𝐮𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐞𝐫 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐰𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐦𝐲 𝐦𝐮𝐬𝐢𝐜 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐥𝐢𝐯𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐦𝐲 𝐥𝐢𝐟𝐞?”

~ 𝑮𝒂𝒃𝒓𝒊𝒆𝒍𝒂 𝑴𝒂𝒓𝒕𝒊𝒏𝒔, 𝑳𝒊𝒌𝒆 𝒂 𝑳𝒐𝒗𝒆 𝑺𝒐𝒏𝒈

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐬: assimilation and reconnecting to your culture (Brazilian-American), identity, coming of age

𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫: fans of YA contemporary, fans of fake-dating trope,

𝐂𝐖: racism, public humiliation

Thank you to @NetGalley and the publisher (@GetUnderlined) for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 ❀

𝐐𝐨𝐭𝐃: What are you currently reading and what’s a song that reminds you of it?

𝐀𝐨𝐭𝐃: Obviously, I thought of “Love you like a love song” by Selena Gomez when I read this book and man that song is so nostalgic for me.

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Ace of Spades | Book Review

Title: Ace of Spades
Author: Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé 
Publisher: Usborne Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller
Rating: ★★★★
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: everyone, fans of YA thrillers and thrillers
CW: racism, death, homophobia, gaslighting, abuse (bullying, etc.)

Check out the Goodreads synopsis below!

An incendiary and utterly compelling thriller with a shocking twist that delves deep into the heart of institutionalized racism, from an exceptional new YA voice.

Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students’ dark secrets to light.


Talented musician Devon buries himself in rehearsals, but he can’t escape the spotlight when his private photos go public. Head girl Chiamaka isn’t afraid to get what she wants, but soon everyone will know the price she has paid for power.

Someone is out to get them both. Someone who holds all the aces. And they’re planning much more than a high-school game… 

𝐆𝐔𝐒𝐇:
• love the narration, the tension and the suspense! I NEEDED to find the answers and refused to put this book down
• I love the two main characters—Chiamaka and Devon are both strong and endearing characters in their own right. Chiamaka’s strong-willed, go-getter attitude is something I admire
• Devon is sweet and caring, but willing to do what it takes for his loved ones
• The ending!

𝐆𝐑𝐈𝐏𝐄:
• pacing at the first 20% felt slow although I can understand the set-up

𝗧𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀 𝘄𝗵𝗶𝗹𝘀𝘁 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴:

0-10%: Wow, this is so fun. I already like the narration. Chiamaka is the best and I like Devon

Wait WHAT!!!!!! What are they talking about???!!

17%: Ahhh!! The gaslighting is so annoying!!

I don’t know if it’s just my version and the format, but it’s difficult to know who’s narrating at times. (Or maybe I just lack the brain cells… yes, that must be it…)

Chiamaka is pretty naive at times… I DON’T LIKE THIS PERSON, CHI!!

Ahhh!! Don’t trust anyone!! PLEASE!!!

25% ONWARDS: asdhjlsgkl;gslk ????!!!!

Cue song: ‘Oh no’ by Capone.

Honestly, from the 25% mark to the 100% I was on the edge of my seat, anxiously flying through the pages. BUT to ease things up, I did enjoy the ending.

but I’m still thinking about everything… and it’s got me like this:

TO SUM IT UP:

𝐖𝐡𝐲 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐛𝐨𝐨𝐤:
• A nuanced take on and the exploration of institutional and systematic racism, classism, white supremacy, and sexuality
• A queer black story that shows a peek of living under the gaze of white supremacy

♠️ Ace of Spades is a heart-racing and heart-wrenching story with compelling and endearing characters and haunting social commentary. Real and raw, terrifying and thought-provoking, Ace of Spades is a must-read.

“𝐈 𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐩 𝐦𝐲𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐟 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐚𝐩𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐠𝐢𝐳𝐢𝐧𝐠-𝐛𝐞𝐜𝐚𝐮𝐬𝐞 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐈 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐧 𝐛𝐞 𝐬𝐨𝐫𝐫𝐲 𝐟𝐨𝐫? 𝐄𝐱𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨𝐨 𝐥𝐨𝐮𝐝?”

Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, Ace of Spades

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐬: race, class, sexuality, and familial themes

𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫: everyone, fans of YA thrillers, and thrillers

𝐂𝐖: racism, death, homophobia, gaslighting, abuse (bullying, etc.)

Thank you to @NetGalley and the publisher (@UsborneYA) for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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Anticipated ARCs Everyone Should Check Out | Book Rambles

The ARC Gods have been quite generous and I feel that I must share some ARCS Im so excited to read. Some of these have been on my highly anticipated reads list and some Ive discovered via NetGalley.

Six Crimson Cranes • by Elizabeth Lim
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publish Date: 8 July 2021

Why I’m excited to read it:
– fan of Elizabeth’s writing (written Spin the Dawn)
– intriguing premise
– arranged marriage trope

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These Hollow Vows • Lexi Ryan
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publish Date: 20 Jult 2021

Why I’m excited to read it:
– promising premise! desperate to read it
– love stories to do with Fae
– love triangle (lol we know I love the drama)

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She Who Became the Sun • Shelley Parker-Chan
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Pan Macmillan, Mantle
Publish Date: 22 July 2021

Why I’m excited to read it:
– historical fantasy re-imagining of Zhu Yuanzhang!!
– intriguing premise
– tragedy, yearning, ambition, and magic

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Not Here to be Liked • Michelle Quach
Genre: Romance, Young Adult
Publisher: Usborne Publishing
Publish Date: 16 September

Why I’m excited to read it:
– rivals to lovers!!
– features an unlikeable female character & intersectional feminism
– coming of age

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Little Thieves • Margaret Owen
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publish Date: 5 October 2021

Why I’m excited to read it:
– huge fan of Margaret Owen (author of The Merciful Crow)
– LOVE the premise!
– unlikeable MC, yes please!

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Iron Widow • Ziran Jay Zhao
Genre: Science Fiction, retelling
Publisher: Oneworld Publications, Rock the Boat
Publish Date: 7 October 2021

Why I’m excited to read it:
– retelling of Wu Zetian!!!
– FINALLY! A Polyam instead of a love triangle!
– Im in love with the premise, the cover, everything

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Within These Wicked Walls • Lauren Blackwood
Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Publish Date: 9 November 2021

Why I’m excited to read it:
– Ethiopian inspired retelling of Jane Eyre
– Okay, Ive never finished reading the original Jane Eyre but Im excited
– Intriguing premise, gothic atmosphere


Have you read any of these books? Or are any of these books are on your radar?

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The Wolf and the Woodsman | Book Review

Title: The Wolf and the Woodsman
Author: Ava Reid
Publisher: Del Rey
Genre: Adult Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Rating: ★★★★
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: fans of atmospheric reads set in a magical forest setting, fans of intricate world-building, fans of enemies to lovers
CW: torture, animal deaths, death, self-harm, gore (dismemberment, amputation, mutilation) antisemitism, child abuse, cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing

Check out the Goodreads synopsis below!

In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.

But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.

As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all. 

𝐆𝐔𝐒𝐇:
• rich and evocative world-building, great atmospheric read
• compelling, lyrical writing
• Jewish mythology inspired
• Prideful prince brought to his knees
• Évike’s (MC) relationship with a certain family member

𝐆𝐑𝐈𝐏𝐄:
• pacing especially the last 10%
• I wish we could witness more resolution regarding certain aspects

Writing:
The writing style immediately drew me in. Whimsical and magical at times, there’s a dark and gritty atmosphere throughout the novel which is quite fitting to the tone of the story.

Romance:
If you’re a fan of enemies-to-lovers that are not only stuck with each other but must work together, boy, do I have a book for you. There’s a romance that will bring you to your knees. Your knees.

Setting & World-Building:
As previously mentioned, this novel is inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology. Additionally, the author states that this is a work reflecting and exploring nation-building. Therefore, brutal themes such as cultural genocide, ethnic cleansing, and religious persecution are explored in this novel.

Also, the scenes and experiences in this novel may give off visceral reactions. There were times where I had to physically put down the book and think, pace around the room, and pick the book up again. For me, being in the diaspora, struggles with identity and searching for a sense of belonging evoked such feelings and emotions I can’t quite articulate yet as I witnessed Évike’s journey. Évike is a character that is both heartbreaking and hopeful. Despite exploring heavy themes, Reid ensures that joy, wit, and hope are woven throughout the story and I adored it. This is particularly evident when Évike is reunited with a certain character and certain interactions with characters.

Overall, The Wolf and the Woodsman is a riveting read, a book that must be savoured upon reading.

“𝐁𝐮𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐨𝐝, 𝐚𝐬 𝐈 𝐝𝐨, 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐯𝐢𝐯𝐚𝐥 𝐢𝐬 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐚 𝐛𝐚𝐭𝐭𝐥𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐰𝐢𝐧 𝐨𝐧𝐥𝐲 𝐨𝐧𝐜𝐞.
𝐘𝐨𝐮 𝐦𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐟𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐢𝐭 𝐚𝐠𝐚𝐢𝐧 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐝𝐚𝐲. 𝐀𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐬𝐦𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐥𝐨𝐬𝐬𝐞𝐬 𝐬𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐥𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐟𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐭𝐨𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐫𝐨𝐰.”

𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑾𝒐𝒍𝒇 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑾𝒐𝒐𝒅𝒔𝒎𝒂𝒏, 𝑨𝒗𝒂 𝑹𝒆𝒊𝒅

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐬: culture, religion, and identity are explored in this novel

𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫: fans of atmospheric reads set in a magical forest setting, fans of intricate world-building, fans of enemies to lovers

𝐂𝐖: torture, animal deaths, death, self-harm, gore (dismemberment, amputation, mutilation) antisemitism, child abuse, cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing

Thank you to @NetGalley and the publisher (@DelRey) for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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Book List: Enemies to Lovers

The enemies-to-lovers trope follows the convention of when two (or more) characters begin as enemies or possess a dislike and/or rivalry dynamic which later develops into a romantic relationship.

There is a specific difference in the character dynamics and nuance between enemies to lovers and rival to lovers – with the main difference being the severity of antagonism, feelings and thoughts between the affected characters. Furthermore, rivals to lovers may not necessarily be ‘enemies’, rather, the characters may strongly dislike the other whether or not sharing the same or similar goal. For the sake of simplicity, I’ve categorised the two tropes together (although I have a stronger preference to rivals to lovers compared to enemies to lovers).  

This category includes the following: reluctance to like, dislike to like, hate to love, rivals to lovers, enemies to lovers

Why ‘enemies-to-lovers’ trope is fun:

  • the tension
  • the banter
  • growth
  • angst

About this list:

This list will provide books that pertain the enemies-to-lovers trope and information regarding the book and author, such as representation in the books and of the author. Please note: I haven’t read all the books listed. If there’s any information needed (such as representation, content warnings, etc.) to be added please let me know.

Also, I feel that it is important to note that I intentionally list information such as the author’s identity in terms of ethnicity, gender, religion, whether the author identifies being neurodivergent or disabled if the author enclosed such information. Why disclose such information? Representation matters. I endeavour to be as accurate as possible with such information, however, if there’s any error please let me know so I can amend it.

Book CoverBook Title and AuthorInformation
An Affair of Poisons
by Addie Thorley 

Down Comes the Night
by Allison Saft 
Rep: bisexual protagnist
Sorcery of Thorns
by Margaret Rogerson 
The Candle in the Flame
by Nafiza Azad 
Rep: Author of Colour (South-East Asian), Muslim Author
The Shadows Between Us
by Tricia Levenseller 
To Kill a Kingdom
by Alexandra Christo 

• retelling of The Little Mermaid
Uprooted
by Naomi Novik 

Book CoverBook Title and AuthorInformation
Bone Crier’s Moon
by Kathryn Purdie 
Crier’s War
by Nina Varela 
Rep: f/f relationship
Dance of Thieves
by Mary E. Pearson
Daughter of the Pirate King
by Tricia Levenseller 
Hunted by the Sky
by Tanaz Bhathena
Rep: Author of Colour (South Asian diaspora; Indian)
Medieval India inspired world, Indian and Persian mythology inspired
These Violent Delights
by Chloe Gong 
Rep: Author of Colour (East Asian diaspora; Shanghai)
• retelling of Romeo and Juliet
The Bridge Kingdom
by Danielle L. Jensen
Note: New Adult
The Storm Crow
by Kalyn Josephson 
Rep: mental health
The Wrath and the Dawn
by Renée Ahdieh 
Rep: Author of Colour (American-Korean)
• Retelling of 1001 Nights
Ancient Arabia inspired world
We Hunt the Flame
(Sands of Arawiya #1)
by Hafsah Faizal 
Rep: Author of Colour (South + West Asian diaspora), Muslim Author
Ancient Arabia inspired world

Book CoverBook Title and AuthorInformation
A Curse So Dark and Lonely
by Brigid Kemmerer 
Rep: protagonist with MS
• retelling of Beauty and the Beast
Blood Heir
by Amélie Wen Zhao 
Rep: Author of Colour (East Asian diaspora)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone
by Laini Taylor
Dark of the West
by Joanna Hathaway 
Serpent and Dove
by Shelby Mahurin 
The Bone Witch
by Rin Chupeco
Rep: Author of Colour (South East Asian; Filipino)
The Cruel Prince
by Holly Black 
The Tiger at Midnight
by Swati Teerdhala 
Rep: Author of Colour (Indian-American)
Indian history and Hindu mythology inspired world
The Winner’s Curse
by Marie Rutkoski 

Book CoverBook Title and AuthorInformation
An Ember in the Ashes
by Sabaa Tahir
Rep: Author of Colour (Pakistani-American), Muslim author

Kingdom of the Wicked
by Kerri Maniscalco

Shatter Me
by Tahereh Mafi
Rep: Author of Colour (Iranian-American), Muslim author

Do you have any recommendations for books in this category?

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