Spoiler Free Review: The Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller

Title: The Bone Orchard

Author: Sara A. Mueller

Pub. Date: March 22nd 2022

Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy

Format: eARC

Publisher: Tor Books

Pages: 432

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☆☆ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review☆☆╮

Characters: 10/10   Atmosphere: 7/10  Writing Style: 7/10  Plot: 5/10  Intrigue: 7/10  Logic/Relationships: 7/10  Enjoyment: 7/10

Rating: 50/7.1 =  ☆☆ 4 Stars☆☆╮

Rating system created by The Book Roast 

☆☆ “𝐌𝐞𝐧 𝐝𝐢𝐝 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐜𝐭 𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐫 𝐢𝐧 𝐚 𝐰𝐨𝐦𝐚𝐧. 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐥𝐚𝐛𝐞𝐥𝐞𝐝 𝐢𝐭 𝐰𝐞𝐚𝐤𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬.” ☆☆╮

The Bone Orchard is one of those books you don’t really forget reading, that is to say it is quite an experience. I’ll be honest and say that I spent just about half of this book mildly confused but highly intrigued to see it through to the end. It’s now been a week since finishing it and the characters live rent free in my mind. This story follows Charm who is a Madam and sex worker herself. She comes from Inshil, a land of necromancers that was conquered and their people mentally enslaved. Charm is under the Emperor’s control and runs the house many influential men visit for pleasures. The Bone Orchard is where she harvests bones, those of her children aka her girls: Justice, Pain, Shame, Pride, and Desire. The girls aren’t real but they work at the house nonetheless and how they came about is the mystery at the core of this story. The Emperor has been poisoned and on his deathbed he has tasked Charm with finding his killer in exchange for her freedom. This is a character driven slower paced story with some brutally tough scenes to navigate. There’s on page assault which triggers discussion on how sex workers are treated and the dangers they face daily. There are quite a lot of triggers tbh, this one gets dark rather quickly as their trauma is unearthed. As confused as I was for a good portion of this story, it all comes together and makes sense mid-way. I found myself genuinely invested in some of the girls and very curious about our MC Charm and “The Lady” who lives in her head. I love when I discover there’s so much more to a book I’m reading than the fantasy aspects. There’s value in this story, I felt the author handled sex work itself very well even if it was difficult to read some of the more violent scenes. I’m the type of reader who doesn’t mind being taken on a ride where I’m not quite sure what’s going on lol, I know this won’t be the case for everyone. The Bone Orchard will have to find it’s audience, I’m pretty confident reader will REALLY enjoy the pay-off in this story! also very curious to read more from this author 🖤

CW: Assault, violence, pedophilia, rape, death of a child, murder

Spoiler Free Review: Set On You by Amy Lea

Title: Set On You

Author: Amy Lea

Pub. Date: May 10th 2022

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Format: eARC

Publisher: Berkley Books

Pages: 384 pages

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🖤ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review🖤

Fitstagrammer Crystal Chen has built her platform by breaking gym stereotypes and throwing positivity at the haters who can’t help but troll her posts. She’s just experienced a break-up that’s left her feeling like setting some boundaries. Tired of having surface level flings and craving a deeper connection, Crystal is on high alert for any guy with red flags. To top it off she finds herself in squat wars with the new guy at the gym who she’s dubbed The Squat Rack Thief. This guy doesn’t follow any of the gyms unspoken rules leaving Crystal both appalled and determined to beat him to the squat rack each night. Soon a tit-for-tat type relationship develops and with it, a whole dose of sexual chemistry. 

Hopefully Dear Reader, you haven’t read the Goodreads synopsis for this book since I feel it gives away a bit too much and I’m glad I went in with very minimal info. For starters, we don’t get Squat Rack Thief’s name right away and I felt this added a fun mystery and led to a surprising reveal. These characters face a couple of challenges before their romance takes off but nothing they couldn’t get through, it was more of a battle of wills playing out. Crystal isn’t trying to become anyone’s rebound (again) and she’s also fiercely and proudly protective of her followers. She dedicates her time to working privately with clients and posting motivational videos/captions that we get to read in the book. We also get to see both the positive & negative comments she gets daily and how she handles having a large platform as a plus size Chinese American Fitstagrammer. Squat Rack Thief is described as looking like Chris Evans and having killer abs but he also deals with some stereotypes and Crystal brings those to the surface. 

All images originate from Pinterest

CW (some of which are mentioned in the author’s note): Cheating, Cancer, death of a loved one mentioned, cyberbullying, fatphobia, references to racism, fitness/diet culture

At its core this book carries such a strong message on what exactly “body positivity” really is on an individual basis and what confidence and self-worth really looks like on the daily. Any book that can make me self reflect is one I’ll recommend and this is one I feel did that and more. Personally, my fitness journey like crystals stemmed from wanting to find my way back to a more confident ME. It’s not tied to a number on the scale but rather a feeling of happiness and comfort in my own skin. There’s also the fact that Crystal doesn’t have a traditional job or career, she has built a strong following and with it acquired some endorsements. Her loving traditional self-made father struggles with her choices and that too was interesting to see play out. All in all, we have a independent woman who has worked hard to achieve success, confidence and up her self worth but that doesn’t mean every day is a good day.

“I don’t think confidence and self-worth is something you magically attain. And you don’t simply hold onto it forever like a tangible object. It’s fluid. You can be confident in every aspect except one. Or something could happen and all your confidence can be shattered in an instant.”

The journey Crystal is on is hella relatable down to setting healthy boundaries with the male love interest. Yes there were moments where they bent the rules & gave into their cravings but there was also a clear line of communication. I really would’ve loved for this to have been multiple POV cause I was dying to know what Squat Rack Thief was thinking. Especially during the last 15% where that communication they maintained all throughout was put on pause. Otherwise this was a laugh-out-loud funny, sexy, empowering, and at times five chili peppers steamy read. There’s a strong cast of supporting characters made up of family members and friends, each of them well fleshed out with tons of personality. Something to look forward to? possibly? well, Crystal’s sister is introduced as a Bookstagrammer/Nurse and I’m more than READY for her story! One can hope amiright?!? Set on You by Amy Lea hits shelves May 10th!

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Spoiler Free Review: The Book Of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

Title: The Book Of Cold Cases

Author: Simone St. James

Pub. Date: March 15th 2022

Genre: Mystery Thriller/Paranormal

Format: eARC

Publisher: Berkley

Pages: 344

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☆☆ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review☆☆╮

Characters: 7/10   Atmosphere: 10/10  Writing Style: 9/10  Plot: 7/10  Intrigue: 7/10  Logic/Relationships: 7/10  Enjoyment: 7/10

Rating: 54/7.7 =  ☆☆ 4 Stars☆☆╮

Rating system created by The Book Roast 

𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗕𝗢𝗢𝗞 𝗢𝗙 𝗖𝗢𝗟𝗗 𝗖𝗔𝗦𝗘𝗦 is my first Simone St James read even though I have their other books on my shelves. St. James just happens to be one of those authors I had a hunch that I would vibe with their writing style and I’m satisfied with this taste test. Opting for the audiobook was a solid choice considering that we get three narrators who slowly unwind this tale in past and present timelines. The mystery suspense is super amped up while we follow our narrator Shea Collins, a receptionist who spends her evenings working on her crime blog. Shea is a survivor from an attempted abduction at the age of nine. She lives with some PTSD that prevents her from ever riding in cars and what some may view as an obsession with cold cases. Shea goes down a rabbit hole when she crosses paths with Beth Greer, the towns wealthy resident who was once accused of murder. How’d she clear her name? Did she really kill her own father or those other random family men? Why does she still live in her family home surrounded by her parents things stuck in time? Shea gets the opportunity of a lifetime when Beth who was acquitted of all charges decides to grant her an interview. There are aspects of this book that are absolutely reminiscent of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, just in a small town setting sprinkled with a bit of paranormal happenings.

This was a solid 4 💫 read that I really enjoyed, my only wish was that it had been a bit more eerie. Even though it is a mystery, I found myself quickly piecing together certain aspects. That being said, the paranormal direction that it took introduced a whole other theory in this whodunnit. I’ve heard from other readers that of all the St. James books, this one did scale it down a bit with the haunted aspects. I haven’t read any of their other books to compare however, I felt that I would’ve much rather enjoyed if the introduction of the paranormal aspects was executed earlier on in the story. There’s also a super slow burn romance that doesn’t take center stage to the story but I found myself rooting for. One things for sure, St. James is anuthor I’ll be keeping on my radar and The Broken Girls will be the next book I read by them 🖤


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Spoiler Free Review: Scorpica by G.R. Macallister

Title: Scorpica

Author: G.R. Macallister

Pub. Date: February 22nd 2022

Genre: Fantasy/LGBTQIA+

Format: eARC

Publisher: Saga Press

Pages: 448

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☆☆ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review☆☆╮

Characters: 8/10   Atmosphere: 10/10  Writing Style: 9/10  Plot: 7/10  Intrigue: 0/10  Logic/Relationships: 10/10  Enjoyment: 7/10

Rating: 51/7.2 =  ☆☆ 4 Stars☆☆╮

Rating system created by The Book Roast 

☆☆ 𝐀𝐜𝐫𝐨𝐬𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐅𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐐𝐮𝐞𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐨𝐦𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰𝐧 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐥𝐝, 𝐨𝐧 𝐚𝐧 𝐚𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐝𝐚𝐲, 𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐥𝐲 𝐚 𝐡𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐫𝐞𝐝 𝐜𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐝𝐫𝐞𝐧 𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐛𝐨𝐫𝐧. 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐫𝐮𝐬𝐡𝐞𝐝 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐠 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐛𝐞𝐭𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐢𝐨𝐫𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐡𝐞𝐩𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐝𝐬, 𝐟𝐚𝐫𝐦𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐞𝐫𝐬, 𝐬𝐜𝐫𝐢𝐛𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐞𝐫𝐬, 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐪𝐮𝐞𝐞𝐧𝐬. ☆☆╮

Five Queendoms have ruled over the land in peace for five hundred years until the Drought of Girls arrives. When girls who are the warriors, healers, magic wielders, and scribes in this world cease being born, the Queendoms turn against one another. In a land of many religions, prayers go up to their different Gods in hopes of ending this curse. Told in multi-POV mainly from the perspectives of the Queen of Arca & Scorpica, this is the start to what has been described as the female Game of Thrones. We have a matriarchal society where men have lesser magic if any all, theirs is more for cosmetic purposes since their role in society is mostly as stay at home husbands. They do not have the right to vote or hold any office, they’re tasked with rearing children in this world where polygamy is the norm. The exception being the land of Scorpica where men are not allowed entry and women warriors travel out of their lands every five years to procreate. Male born babies are sold off and female babies are welcomed as future warriors. When the Drought of Girls begins, all Queendoms look to one another for the source of this curse. Power plays are set into motion by each queen to protect their positions of power at any and all costs. 

This is the type of Fantasy that will satisfy the reader who enjoys thoroughly fleshed out world building, political machinations, and slow but steady storytelling that feels like it’s all leading up to something greater. Although quite dense at times with a TON of characters, the short chapters really make it easier to follow the many story lines at once. I really enjoyed learning of the different lands and their Queendoms because each has it’s own specialty they’re known for sort of like the seven kingdoms of Westeros (Game of Thrones). We get to spend some time learning of the warriors in Scorpica, Scribes in the Bastion, deal makers/traders in Paxim, and Sorcerers in Arca. Some lands were explored more than others but I was satisfied with the two we spent the most time in (Scorpica & Arca) since they wield the most power through physical and magical strengths. A good majority of the cast of characters are queer and most relationships are Polyamorous. I love a good set of supporting side characters especially when they’re sort of found family. We get that here in a group of misfits/thieves we meet on the journey of one of the main characters we follow. I’m hoping to meet these characters on the page again after getting fully invested in their lives. This was definitely a foundation setting book to what has the potential to be an EPIC fantasy. My guess is that the sequel will hit the ground running and swords will be clashing. For this to be the first fully matriarchal/feminist Fantasy I’ve read…MORE please? haha! this hit the spot 🙌🏽


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Spoiler Free Review: Dating Dr. Dil by Nisha Sharma

Title: Dating Dr. Dil

Author: Nisha Sharma

Pub. Date: March 15th 2022

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Format: eARC

Publisher: Avon 

Pages: 352

 

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☆☆ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review☆☆╮

Characters: 10/10   Atmosphere: 7/10  Writing Style: 10/10  Plot: 8/10  Intrigue: 0/10  Logic/Relationships: 8/10  Enjoyment: 10/10

Rating: 53/7.5 =  ☆☆ 4 Stars☆☆╮

Rating system created by The Book Roast 

*•.¸♡ 𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘮𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘢𝘯 𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘪𝘵’𝘴 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭. 𝘐 𝘴𝘢𝘸 𝘪𝘵 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘮𝘺 𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘴 𝘴𝘭𝘰𝘸 𝘥𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘬𝘪𝘵𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘰𝘯 𝘚𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘢𝘺 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴. 𝘓𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘵𝘶𝘱𝘪𝘥 𝘤𝘢𝘳 𝘮𝘺 𝘧𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘮𝘺 𝘮𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘬𝘦𝘦𝘱 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘩𝘦𝘥 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘩𝘦 𝘨𝘦𝘵𝘴 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘴𝘢𝘥 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘦𝘦𝘴 𝘪𝘵. 𝘐𝘵’𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘦𝘤𝘩𝘰𝘦𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘭𝘢𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘐 𝘳𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦 𝘐 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘥𝘰𝘸𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘪𝘳𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘮𝘺 𝘮𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘧𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘣𝘶𝘪𝘭𝘵 𝘵𝘰𝘨𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳.” ♡¸.•*

 Kareena Mann dreams of having a love marriage like her parents had but she’s considered to be a difficult catch for having what some consider to be idealistic views on love. Her interests mainly lie in restoring her moms classic car, remodeling her childhood home, reading romance novels and swiping right on dating apps. When her dad announces he’s selling their home, Kareena makes a last minute ditch effort/deal with him. If she gets engaged within four months he will gift her the house she grew up in.  Things get complicated when she has a very public argument with beloved Dr. Prem Dil on national TV. Neither believes they can possibly have anything in common because of their opposing views on love but quickly see that there is one thing they can do for one another that is sort of mutually beneficial. While Kareena is trying to buy her childhood home, Prem is trying to open up a medical practice to help the South Asian community. Both need money and are of the age where their families are pushing for marriage. What you can expect: Fake dating/Enemies-to-lovers trope, funny meddlesome families, dating scene highs/lows, great sex scenes, and yea some annoying nicknames 🤷🏻‍♀️😂

Too often I pick up a “rom-com” paperback thinking of all the classic movies that made me fall in love with them in the first place like The Proposal and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. This doesn’t often lead to the discovery of a new favorite because they rarely ever have that perfect balance of romance + comedy. I requested the eGalley of Dating Dr. Dil on Netgalley when I heard the male love interest was a Cardiologist who doesn’t believe in love or rather falling in love cause doesn’t that make for an interesting set-up? Why Yes! yes it totally does! I don’t remember the last time I had so much fun reading a book and it honestly got me out of a slump. The Auntie network made up of Kareena’s well meaning aunties alone had me giggling and SMH into the night. We get to know both their families through Whatsapp messages and If like myself you love a big family meddling in love affairs then this is a MUST read! 

The topic of arranged marriages vs. love marriages was explored in a positive light with instances where both have worked out in a successful pairing. Although the deal Kareena and Prem decide on would get them each what they’re looking for, I appreciated the emphasis on how Kareena would be viewed differently just for being a woman than Prem. A fake dating arrangement that can both help and harm Kareena in her dating life post situationship. I LOVED how Kareena did NOT stop dating just because of this arrangement, she stayed true to her character wanting to find true love. We do get to see her go on some of these dates which were frankly VERY close to what is actually out there in the dating pool *nightmares for days* but also added plenty of comedic moments. What I wasn’t expecting was for the spice to be at peak levels but Nisha Sharma delivered 👏🏽🙌🏽 I’ve seen many low reviews given simply because of the nickname Prem gives his manhood but I was not bothered at all by that and it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book.  I do believe there are more stories to be told since we do get introduced to Prem’s BFFs who are fellow single Desi boys. Kareena has some single friends as well and I would absolutely read the next book in this series…as long as we get more from the Aunties network 🙌🏽


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Review: I’m So Not Over You by Kosoko Jackson

Title: I’m So Not Over You

Author:Kosoko Jackson

Pub. Date: February 22nd 2022

Genre: Contemporary Romance/LGBTQIA+

Format: eARC

Publisher: Berkley Romance 

Pages: 368

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☆☆ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review☆☆╮

Characters: 7/10   Atmosphere: 5/10  Writing Style: 7/10  Plot: 5/10  Intrigue: 0/10  Logic/Relationships: 5/10  Enjoyment: 7/10

Rating: 36/5.1 =  ☆☆ 3 Stars☆☆╮

Rating system created by The Book Roast 

What would you do if your ex sent you an urgent text to meet him at a café post break up? Kian Andrews has had many thoughts and emotions since last seeing his ex Hudson Rivers. Could he possibly be having second thoughts about their break-up? or an apology? What he wasn’t expecting was for Hudson to ask a huge favor, to fake date him for the sake of getting his wealthy parents off his back. Hudson hasn’t given into his family’s wishes of joining their business, instead he’s chosen to carve his own career path. His relationship with Kian was something his parents not only accepted but praised him for. 𝗜’𝗺 𝗦𝗼 𝗡𝗼𝘁 𝗢𝘃𝗲𝗿 𝗬𝗼𝘂 is a queer second chance romance paired with some fake dating that is set between New York City and Georgia. Our MC’s are from very different socioeconomic backgrounds and are night and day in personalities making a strong case for opposites attract. We follow this couple as they revisit old wounds and decide whether or no their relationship deserves another go around.

This is one romance I wish had been more fleshed out since it featured the second chance trope. I really wanted to know why Kian and Hudson broke up in the first place…was it differences in socioeconomic class? Kian’s constant commentary on these differences? or was it something entirely different? I still feel the reason was needed before plunging into the fake dating negotiations that took place. 𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗜 𝗟𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗱? I enjoyed Kian’s sarcasm and dry humor when met with Hudson’s southern charm, their on the page chemistry that made for *chefs kiss* steamy scenes, a supportive friend group, the presence of strong sibling bonds, and female side characters who are driven and fiercely independent. There was enough witty banter and intriguing side characters in this book to guarantee I pick up whatever Kosoko Jackson writes next 🖤


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Spoiler Free Review: Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake

Title: Delilah Green Doesn’t Care

Author: Ashley Herring Blake

Pub. Date: February 22nd 2022

Genre: Contemporary Romance/LGBTQIA+

Format: eARC

Publisher: Berkley Romance 

Pages: 384

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*ARC received in exchange for an honest review*

Twelve years have passed since Delilah Green turned her back on Bright Falls and started a new chapter of her life in New York City. The small town holds a lot of memories, many of them sad and painful. After the loss of her mother, Delilah’s father re-married and that came with a step-sister she never quite felt comfortable around. When her estranged step-sister Astrid comes looking to hire her as a photographer for her wedding, Delilah is torn between ignoring the request or returning to a place she had sworn away. Life as a waitress/wedding photographer sustains her real dream which is art through a lens that focuses on queer people. She can’t really pass up the chance to make some real money from Astrids gig so she decides to go with no real plans to stick around. That all changes when she crosses paths with Astrid’s “stuck-up” BFF Claire Sutherland and decides to place a bet with her step-sister who is super protective of her besties. 

Claire Sutherland is a single mom raising a an 11 year old girl who also runs the towns local bookshop. In between dealing with her ex and his unreliability, she hasn’t had much time for dating and she doesn’t do random hook-ups. Her relationship with her child’s father has left her with some trust/abandonment issues. She most certainly doesn’t think someone like Delilah Green who is flighty & into casual sex, is a good idea to start something up with. Wedding preparations along with some sideline hijinks to stop Astrid from marrying the absolute biggest chauvinistic jerk on the planet, force these two to work together. It’s definitely a case of instant sparks flying paired with undeniable chemistry that WORKED! 

*Images respectively from Pinterest & IMDB

CW: Cancer, death of a parent(s), grief, cheating, misogyny, abandonment

I’ve never been one to fan cast while reading any book but these characters were so well fleshed out that only Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) & Laura Prepon (OITNB) came to mind. From the vintage pin-up style Claire so flawlessly executes to Delilah’s more wild devil-may-care attitude, these two had chemistry that jumped off the page. I LOVED them both and got so invested in their lives and the baggage they each were carrying. At its core we have a story about acceptance and learning how to allow yourself to be loved both romantically and platonically. The female friendships go back for these women to their childhood days and tied to that are feelings of being excluded and made out to feel like an outcast. Some of these characters (including supporting cast) are working through grief, co-parenting relationships, toxic relationships, feeling like they have to seek validation, and abandonment issues. Yes it’s absolutely a full on romance but it also has a huge emphasis on friendship which made it all the more sweeter. When I was in the book I didn’t want to put it down & when I was away from it, all I thought about was my next free moment to jump back in. I’m 100% the type of bookworm who loves character driven books but I was pleasantly surprised by the subplot and how much fun it added to the main storyline. Also! I can’t not mention this. The love shown to a woman’s body post having had a child was SUPER appreciated by this bookworm and just downright beautiful to see on the page. This is my first read from Ashley Herring Blake and I can already tell I may have found a new favorite author. There’s an excerpt to the next book in this series which follows one of the characters in this book and even that was *Chefs Kiss* enough to keep me holding on haha! 

Things to look forward to on February 22nd…

📚An Idyllic small town with a cute Bookstore
📸Single Mom finding love
📚Bookworm MC’s
📸A tight knit female friend group
🏳️‍🌈Sapphic main characters
📸Photography explored
📚Co-Parenting ups/downs
📸Complex sibling relationship
📚Campsite Pranks
🌶Steamy AF sex scenes


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Spoiler Free Review: Ramón and Julieta by Alana Quintana Albertson

Title: Ramón and Julieta

Author:Alana Quintana Albertson

Pub. Date: February 1st 2022

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Latinx

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Berkley Books

Pages: 304 pages

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | LIBROFM | AMAZON 

☆☆ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review☆☆╮

Characters: 7/10   Atmosphere: 10/10  Writing Style: 7/10  Plot: 10/10  Intrigue: 0/10  Logic/Relationships: 5/10  Enjoyment: 7/10

Rating: 46/6.5 =  ☆☆ 3 Stars☆☆╮

Rating system created by The Book Roast 

╰☆☆ 𝐖𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐟𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐚𝐜𝐨𝐬 𝐛𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐑𝐚𝐦𝐨́𝐧 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐉𝐮𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐭𝐚 𝐭𝐨𝐠𝐞𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐃𝐚𝐲 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐃𝐞𝐚𝐝, 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐫-𝐜𝐫𝐨𝐬𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐩𝐚𝐢𝐫 𝐦𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐦𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐚 𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐢𝐜𝐞: 𝐚𝐜𝐜𝐞𝐩𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐛𝐢𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐟𝐨𝐨𝐝 𝐫𝐢𝐯𝐚𝐥𝐫𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐝𝐫𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐦 𝐚𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐭 𝐨𝐫 𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐨 𝐚 𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐮𝐦𝐞𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐦. ☆☆╮

I’ve been waiting what seems all my life for a taco lovers romance so it was without a doubt a must read when I saw this title make its rounds. We have our modern day Latinx Romeo and Juliet who are literally from opposite sides of the bridge in San Diego, specifically Barrio Logan. A community that has for a very long time been home to many Mexican-Americans who try to preserve the rich culture. There’s so much to appreciate and love in this book, from the respect given to Dia De Los Muertos to the emphasis placed on discussing Gentefication (not to be confused with Gentrification) and its trickle down effects. The neighborhood comes to life with mom and pop shop owners who take great pride in their Cultura and watching over one another. Ramon comes from the other side, born and raised wealthy he is a business man who works alongside his dad for a large chain of taco shops. Julieta owns a small fish taco shop alongside her mom where she is the chef and prides herself In authentic Mexican cuisine. This is a predominantly plot driven Contemporary Romance that delivers thought provoking social commentary from a Latinx perspective. Readers who enjoy their romance storylines with some external layers as contributing factors in the romance would enjoy this. What’s to love? taco wars, cheesy over the top declarations of love that in turn induce cheesy smiling, Latinx small business owners protecting their turf, BIG families with lots of siblings, aunties, and cousins and a backdrop filled with so much culture that you feel like you’re walking down Barrio Logan. 

I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not the biggest fan of insta-love so it was rather early on that I started to struggle a bit with the romance aspect of this book. That being said, there’s SO much to love that made this a book I wanted to finish. I got invested in Barrio Logan so deeply that I was rooting for the shop owners to rally up and find a way to stay where they’ve worked so hard to grow roots. Gentefication, a term that was new to me up until I read this book, is the gentrification of neighborhoods by the very same people who live in it. Our love interest Ramón would be considered a Gentefier as a Mexican-American from across the bridge who has interest in Barrio Logan. Our characters are from two very different socioeconomic classes and it does prove challenging in their story arc. I kind of hoped to see more gradual character development but overall the pacing for this and the romance was what I struggled with. If the romance had been a bit better developed, I wouldn’t have minded what felt like over the top cheesy moments heaped with terms of endearment too early on. What I loved about their romance? the scenes we got with Ramon genuinely taking interest in the community and Julieta’s life. I loved seeing two MC’s who are very passionate and invested in what they do. Scenes at the taco shop where they’re both cooking were some of my favorite. Latinx stories with large families are my bread & butter, Julieta’s mom and many aunts were fun to meet on the page. I was actually hoping that we’d get more from Julieta’s mom and Ramón’s father since there is a back story there. We also got some page time with Ramón’s brothers who I see potentially getting their own story arcs. I’m very curious to see if there are more stories with these characters and if so, who the next couple would be! So, count me in for this author’s next book 😉


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Thriller Thoughts…

The Thriller genre isn’t where you’d typically find me but this year has already started off oddly and we’re just going with it at the moment. I have found Thrillers to be easier to digest as audiobooks while I’m multi-tasking indoors and outdoors. Funny observation, I run faster on the treadmill when I think someone is chasing me while listening to ANY thriller smh. No idea how this looks but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s possible my Pheobe Buffay style of running keeps anyone from coming up behind me 😂  it’s a work in progress. I listened to the audiobook for each of the thrillers down below, and they’re listed in order of enjoyment.

In My Dreams I Hold a Knife (5 STARS) Did I stay up until 2am finishing this book? Yes…yes I did and although I payed for it dearly the next morning, I had zero regrets while living in the moment. Hands down a compulsive read that is equal parts character and plot driven, this is one you can’t put down for long. Some reviewers say this has Riverdale Vibes and I’d have to agree. We have an academic setting with seven characters who’ve gravitated towards each other and have a complex friend group. It’s told in past and present timelines from mostly Jessica’s point of view, she is an unreliable character with one hell of a narcissistic personality and fits the bill as far as unlikeable characters go. We get to slip into some of the other characters points of view as they recount their version of events. Ten years ago, one of the friends was murdered on campus and most walked away ready to leave that all behind. Someone decides to make Homecoming the time to lure out the killer to carry out overdue justice which triggers the unraveling of secrets, lies and betrayals within their friend circle. This was fast paced with the first half reading a bit lighthearted (when compared to the latter half this almost seemed like the “good times”) as we see these characters living their best college lives, dating, and dealing with baggage that stems from unhealthy/toxic relationships with their parents. The second half was like watching the domino effect set off, at which point there is no turning away. Dark & filled with obsession, greed, vanity, violence and narcissism…I don’t think I’ve ever read something so wrong yet also satisfying that I couldn’t stop thinking about the way it ended.  Also, other than Coop I can’t really say I liked any of these characters but I found myself 100% invested in all of their lives. In any case, this author is now on my radar for future reads.

A Flicker In The Dark (4.5 STARS) – I’m not well read with thrillers like I am with Fantasy but as I’ve been reading more from this genre, I’m beginning to spot the red herrings. We follow Chloe who is a psychologist in a small Louisiana town where her father is serving time for having killed 6 young girls twenty years ago. Like many children of killers in small towns, your last name haunts and shames you. She’s trying to create a new life detached from her dad but when girls begin to go missing again, she’s thrust back in time to the days leading up to his arrest. This doesn’t read like a debut at all, the writing is engrossing and almost plays out like a movie. I say this while also acknowledging the fact that it wasn’t too difficult to piece together certain things. I still ate it up and appreciated the whole cinematic vibes it was giving as we flash back and forth between Chloe’s childhood and present timelines. Our MC is addicted to prescription medication and with her easy access to them, it makes for moments where you start feeling as paranoid as she’s acting half the time. I lost count of the times I thought to myself “but what if” or “but then that can’t be” safe to say there was an abundance of plot twists. I also wasn’t surprised at all to see that it has already been picked up by HBOMAX, my true joy kicked in when I saw Emma Stone tapped in for the lead 👏🏽 we Stan Emma in this corner 🙌🏽

The Collective (4 STARS) – “𝐈’𝐯𝐞 𝐥𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐭𝐰𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐲-𝐞𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐩𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐬 𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐄𝐦𝐢𝐥𝐲’𝐬 𝐝𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐡. 𝐈’𝐯𝐞 𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐝 𝐜𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐦𝐲 𝐡𝐚𝐢𝐫 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐰𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐦𝐚𝐤𝐞𝐮𝐩 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐈 𝐡𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐛𝐨𝐥𝐭-𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐫𝐞𝐦𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐝, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐨 𝐈 𝐚𝐦 𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐧𝐨 𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐨𝐦𝐚𝐧 𝐈 𝐨𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐬. 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐧𝐨 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐜𝐡 𝐦𝐞. 𝐍𝐨 𝐟𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐨𝐧, 𝐚𝐧𝐲𝐰𝐚𝐲.”

Ever find yourself reading a book where you’re just as conflicted as the protagonist? The premise of this book lured me in possibly because as a mom myself, the thought of a group of anonymous women (who’ve all lost a child) working together to deliver justice is hard NOT to get behind. The MC Camille has been grieving the death of her 15 year old for the past 5 years and there isn’t a day that goes by that she isn’t angry and obsessed with the killer. Her marriage has come to an end and she’s left to live in this big colonial style house where the memories of her daughter haunt her. Camille follows the life of her daughter’s killer via social media and ends up showing up at an event where her actions grab the attention of this secret group of women. This is a trip down the dark side of justice that had me back & forth with my feelings but I believe that to be the intent here. Camille at some point finds herself trying to figure out whether the group is strictly operating in the name of avenging these children or if they too are like the monsters they seek to eliminate in the name of justice. I’m very curious to see how this all ends, in many ways the MC disregards logic and comes more from an emotional headspace. I can’t say I blame her for it but things snowball rather quickly once she acts upon her darkest fantasy. If you can read from the POV of someone who in an obsessive cycle and very angry, this is worth a go.


February 2022 Anticipated New Releases

What a curious month it has turned out to be with book releases. I had been hearing that it would be a slow month with not much to really get excited for but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. I started digging months ago but my list kept growing and yet there are still many titles out there, too many to list in this post. These are just the titles that caught my attention, some of which I was lucky to have been granted access to a eGalley copy of for review. Which titles are you excited for? If there are any you’re looking forward to that are not listed here, drop those titles down below no matter the genre <3’s!

A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross 2/15/22

House of Earth and Blood meets The Witch’s Heart in Rebecca Ross’s brilliant first adult fantasy, set on the magical isle of Cadence where two childhood enemies must team up to discover why girls are going missing from their clan – Goodreads This one is said to be a Scottish Fantasy that will mark the authors debut in the adult fantasy genre. If I had a list of books I’m predicting will be 5 or 6 star reads, this would make the cut since it checks off so many of my boxes. 

House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2) by SJ Maas 2/15/22

I’m but one of many many book lovers that are eagerly counting down the days until the release of this book. I cannot wait to be back with Bryce, Hunt and other cast favorites. I can’t go into details since this is a sequel but here’s my review for House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #2)

Scorpica (The Five Queendoms #1) by Greer Macallister 2/22/22

What first caught my interest for the book? I heard it described as the “Female Game of Thrones” 😵 and that is all I needed to hear Book Lovers! haha! 500 years of peace shatters between five queendoms in this matriarchal society when girls inexplicably just stop being born. “Uniting the stories of women from across the queendoms, this propulsive, gripping epic fantasy follows a warrior queen who must rise from childbirth bed to fight for her life and her throne, a healer in hiding desperate to protect the secret of her daughter’s explosive power, a queen whose desperation to retain control leads her to risk using the darkest magic, a near-immortal sorcerer demigod powerful enough to remake the world for her own ends—and the generation of lastborn girls, the ones born just before the Drought, who must bear the hopes and traditions of their nations if the queendoms are to survive.”

The Justice of Kings (Empire of The Wolf #1) by Richard Swan 2/22/22

The Justice of Kings, the first in a new epic fantasy trilogy, follows the tale of Sir Konrad Vonvalt, an Emperor’s Justice – a detective, judge and executioner all in one. As he unravels a web of secrets and lies, Vonvalt discovers a plot that might destroy his order once and for all – and bring down the entire Empire – Goodreads

This book has already received positive feedback from some of the top fantasy reviewers across all bookish platforms. The fact that the MC is the MOST hated character and therefore great at his job as executioner, intrigues me smh. I may just pick this one up this weekend while on the road.

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson 2/2/22

I just found out there was a signed copy with sprayed edges of this book and a part of me is sobbing over this missed opportunity. Black Cake was a January Book Of The Month pick, based on a traditional black cake, a voice recording and a story left behind by Eleanor Bennett for her two children. From the Caribbean to London and Cali, we follow this story and family lineage uncovering secrets and betrayals the matriarch of this family left behind. I’m looking forward to reading Black Cake over the next couple of weeks.

Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead by Elle Cosimano 2/1/22

The sequel to Finlay Donovan is Killing It (my review) is already rumored to be twice as funny as the first book in this series and I’m honestly hoping that it is. I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll be reading it physically or via audiobook but after the cliffhanger ending in the first book, I’m curious enough to continue reading. Finlay’s night time job as a hitwoman may just prove to be lucrative haha!

Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal2/2/22

Set in 1860’s England we follow a circus of wonders that has begun to recruit “human wonders” like our MC Nell who is known as “Leopard Girl” because of the birthmarks covering her body. Soon Nell’s fame begins to eclipse that of the ring master Jasper Jupiter with Nell knowing her worth and willing to fight for it. Other than Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, I haven’t read a circus story I love but that doesn’t stop me from trying. Also, the cover is beautiful and 1800’s England as a backdrop does sound appealing.

Homicide and Halo-Halo by Mia P. Manansala 2/8/22

The second installment in the new cozy mystery series Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery follows Lila Macapagal in the little town of Shady Palms. The Miss Teen Shady Palms Beauty Pageant has come back around and it’s a topic of contention for Lila (previously won) and her cousin Bernadette. When one of the judges gets murdered and Bernadette is the primary suspect, Lila has to set aside their differences to help her clear her name.

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley 2/22/22

I’ve seen this thriller make its rounds on all platforms, Lucy Foley seems to be a favorite in the genre. This one centers around Jess who is looking to escape her past and decides to flee to Paris for a fresh start. Her brother Ben has agreed to let her stay with him but when she arrives, he’s nowhere to be found and the neighbors are all an eclectic bunch with lots to hide.

The socialite – The nice guy – The alcoholic – The girl on the verge – The concierge

Everyone’s a neighbor. Everyone’s a suspect. And everyone knows something they’re not telling. 

One Night On the Island by Josie Silver 2/15/2022

One can never have enough forced proximity trope romances especially when they’re set on a remote Irish island. We have two loners who love their solitude, escaping for some R&R when they’re informed they’ve been double booked for the same one-room cabin. They can’t really stand each other but while they wait for the weekly ferry to come back around, they start not to mine one another’s company. I’ll read anything and everything set in Ireland! ❤ 

Not the Witch You Wed by April Asher 2/8/22

A fake relationship between a magic-less witch and a wolf shifter turns to more in the start of a bewitching new paranormal rom-com series- Goodreads 

Say less! 😂 I haven’t read a shifter romance in so long but this one sounds so good! It has the fake dating + second chance romance trope which sounds like a good time. 

Lease On Love by Falon Ballard 2/1/22

Pitched as Beach Read meets The Flat Share, and also set in Brooklyn (my home sweet home) we follow Sadie who is a bit down on her luck. After getting passed up for an overdue promotion and in desperate need of a new place to live, she goes out for some drinks. After a few, she makes the mistake of mixing her roommate finding app with her dating app which leads her to Jack’s doorstep. Jack who has just lost his parents and is grieving but open to the idea of renting Sadie a room. They are the COMPLETE polar opposites but somehow it just works.

Ramón and Julieta by Alana Quintana Albertson 2/1/22

When fate and tacos bring Ramón and Julieta together on the Day of the Dead, the star-crossed pair must make a choice: accept the bitter food rivalry that drives them apart or surrender to a love that consumes them—perfect for fans of Jane the Virgin!- Goodreads

Literally checks off all my boxes for a romance and it’s Latinx! I was actually approved for an eGalley on Netgalley on release day & so I dropped everything I was in the middle of and jumped right into this one. 15% in so far & LOVING it! If you’ve watched the Netflix show Gentefied and are sad about it getting cancelled (like myself), pick this book up 😉

I’m So (Not) Over You by Kosoko Jackson 2/22/22

This is a second chance LGBTQIA+ romance with a bit of fake dating where we follow aspiring journalist Kian Andrews who hasn’t spoken to his ex Hudson in a few months. HE receives a text to meet up at a cafe where he has a favor to ask, that Kian agree to fake date him while his family is in town in exchange for the chance to meet some pretty well known figures in media. This then snowballs into Kian getting invited to Hudson’s sisters wedding as a plus one and that just means more time spent together…sounds like a rekindling Book lovers! I was granted a eGalley and will be reviewing here on the blog 🙂

Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake 2/22/22

Quite possibly my favorite romance of the year! I was very lucky to have received an eGalley and already have a review scheduled to go live closer to the release date, EXCITED to get my hands on a physical copy. This is a F/F queer romance set mostly in a small town with one of our MC’s traveling to/from New York City. Delilah and Claire have known each other since childhood but never really became close friends, Delilah lost her mom at a young age and moved with her dad to Bright Falls when he remarried. Claire was part of her step sister Astrid’s friend circle which made her keep her distance. Fast forward to the present and they’re all grown up & unrecognizable. Delilah doesn’t want to revisit the town she turned her back on but when Astrid asks for a favor, she gives in. Sexy, fun, atmospheric (small town is charming) and funny! 

 

Ophelia After All by Raquel Marie 2/8/22

In this corner of the interwebz we love Cuban food and Ophelia being a romantic with tons of crushes, a love for rose gardening AND Cuban food was sure to get my attention. Ophelia’s friends and family are used to the many crushes she experiences but when she starts having feelings for Talia Sanchez and thinking less & less of her ex-boyfriend, she has to start discovering who she really is. A queer exploration of character story I just know I’m going to enjoy!

No Filter and Other Lies by Crystal Maldonado 2/8/22

First! can we just take a moment to love on this cover?!?! It’s beautiful 💜 When I read the synopsis, my mouth literally hung open cause I would be mortified if I had gotten myself in a sticky mess like Kat our MC does. Kat has created a persona online known as Max Monroeroe where she shares glam photos, doles out advice and networks with famous influencers. In her real life she’s dealing with unrequited love from her BFF Harri, a bad school year and terrible house parties. When one of her photos goes viral and the person from whom she was stealing photos finds out, her world comes crashing down and she has to figure out how to get out from this web of lies.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh 2/22/22

Axie Oh’s The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is an enthralling feminist retelling of the classic Korean folktale “The Tale of Shim Cheong,” perfect for fans of Wintersong, Uprooted, and Miyazaki’s Spirited Away – Goodreads

Ok so to sum this one up as best I can, we have a Sea God who is said to be angry with the people and therefore inflicting them with deadly storms. Each year a young bride is chosen and cast into the sea in hopes he will choose one as his bride and end all of the misery. Our MC has a brother who is set to marry his love, but the girl is chosen to be sacrificed and he does what is forbidden. He walks into the water to interfere which would get him a death sentence. Our MC jumps in to save her brother and gets swept into the Spirit Realm under the sea where with the help of a motley crew of demons, Gods and spirits she will attempt to awaken the Sea God. Sounds HELLA atmospheric 🤗

Extasia by Claire Legrand 2/22/22

It’s been years since I’ve read a Claire Legrand book and since I LOVED Sawkill Girls, hearing of this title was exciting! a queer paranormal horror where the MC joins a coven to root out the evil that is plaguing her village. I’ve seen some early mixed reviews but i’m absolutely checking this one out since I’ve enjoyed this author’s writing style in the past.

Only A Monster (Monsters #1) by Vanessa Len 2/17/22

This is one of my MOST anticipated YA books simply because it has two things, monsters and London. Our MC is a 16 year old who is sent to work the summer in London with her eccentric family. Not just eccentric, they’re monsters with powers and our MC finds out she also has powers. The guy she’s crushing on happens to be a monster slayer…her only ally is another guy who comes from an opposing monster family. Could possibly end up as a love triangle? Not sure but it has all the vibeZ! 

Castles in Their Bones by Laura Sebastian 2/1/22

I actually just got my hold for this book come through from Libby so it’s looking like a February read! We follow three princesses who have all been trained since birth in the arts of deception, seduction, and violence in order to take down Monarchies. Their mother is the mastermind behind it all and plans to one day rule over the continent of Vesteria.  

This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi 2/1/22

This beautiful book just landed on my doorstep this afternoon and honestly has left me giving kudos to Illumicrate 🙌🏽 they’ve outdone themselves with their special edition! This is the first in a romantic trilogy inspired by Persian mythology where we follow a servant who is an heir to a long forgotten ancient Jinn kingdom. The Prince has heard the prophecy foretelling the death of the king but he never would suspect that it would all come down to this one servant. Said to be perfect for fans of fantasy written by Leigh Bardugo, Tomi Adeyemi, and Sabaa Tahir.


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