Spoiler Free Review: She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

Title: She Who Became the Sun

Author: Shelley Parker-Chan

Pub. Date: July 20th 2021

Genre: Fantasy/Queer

Format: eGalley

Publisher: TOR Books

Pages: 416 pages

It’s 1345 and China is under Mongol rule. A famine is killing many, leaving villages with nothing in its wake. To be born male is to be deemed of value and families will sacrifice their daughters in exchange for food and safety from bandits. We’re introduced to a boy destined for greatness and his sister who is one of the few (if not the only) girls left in her village. A prophecy is issued and the boy is said to be destined for greatness whereas the girl would amount to “nothingness.” When a bandit attack leaves them orphaned, it’s the girl who takes fate/destiny into her own hands. Taking her brother’s identity, Zhu Chongba begins her journey to greatness. She is 10 years old when she goes to the local monastery with hopes of being allowed entrance as a young novice. She spends several nights at the monasteries gates amongst others who are also trying to gain acceptance, a monastery is said to never go without food. She is beaten and pushed away until eventually she’s the only one left and therefore allowed access. Head shaved and prepubescent, armed with her brother’s identity, Zhu Chongba begins her journey to power. Her ambition and drive will take her to unthinkable heights. For Zhu a life well lived is one of value and accolades, she sees clearly the role that gender plays in politics and uses that insight to rise through the ranks as Zhu Chongba. Driven by purpose, Zhu will stop at nothing to achieve the greatness the prophet once said her brother would attain. 

“Most strong-willed people never understand that will alone isn’t enough to guarantee their survival. They don’t realize that even more so than will, survival depends upon an understanding of people and power.”
― Shelley Parker-Chan

I wasn’t expecting to get lost within the power hungry pages of this book but from the moment I picked it up I was transfixed by our main character. In a famine filled world where everyone is fighting to live one more day, our MC has the innate ability to turn the tides in her favor. Zhu is fiercely determined to make her life mean something by any means necessary. With every connection she makes, she strategically advances towards the top. Her biggest enemy is Ouyang, a Eunuch General who has his own agenda and has targeted Zhu as the only one standing in his way. Shelley Parker-Chan gives us a revenge plot along with themes of destiny, gender, power and the ambition to defy that which your gender has predetermined. These characters are ALL morally grey and multi-faceted, often times I found myself rooting for each of their agendas as cut throat as they were. If you love Historical Fiction and/or intricately written political power plays, this can absolutely be your jam! If you enjoy reading characters that have been discarded and despite all odds rise to the top, then this book will more than tick off the box! This book is violent yet engrossing with its animated war scenes and will leave you in awe of our MC. I simply cannot wait for the next book in The Radiant Emperor series.

Content warnings (as provided by the author):
* Dysphoria
* Pre-existing non-consensual castration
* Misgendering
* Internalised homophobia
* Life-altering injury (amputation)
* Ableist language
* Non-graphic depictions of death by torture
* Major character death
* Offscreen murder of a child
* Scenes depicting extreme hunger/starvation
* Graphic depiction of a person burning to death


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Spoiler Free Review: A Curse in Ash by Julie Zantopoulos

Title: A Curse in Ash

Author: Julie Zantopoulos

Pub. Date: October 5th 2021

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy/Romance

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Pages: 392 pages

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ARC received from author in exchange for an honest review

Aisling Quinn has created a semi-normal life alongside humans, she’s a half Fae Witch who has learned how to make a living from her witchy abilities. The Veil exists to keep Fae from crossing over however those keeping tabs on her can’t really be stopped by the Veil. Aisling is a consultant to the Supernatural Police Department and a Tarot Reader on the side, she has her friend group cheering her on in life when said life gets turned upside down. When a sexy tattooed Irish stranger comes to town unintentionally activating their bond and her Fae Fiancé refuses to leave her side while she’s under attack….things get hot and interesting! Aisling is the epitome of an independent sexy resourceful bad a** who sets boundaries while also having two men willing to throw down for her! and even accept each others role in her life…mhmmm this gave me major Polyamory vibeZ and I for one was there for it. Aisling knows what both these men need emotionally and cares for them both deeply. How she managed to get them to coexist is still beyond me but it was super enjoyable seeing their interactions play out when fiercely protecting her. 

Riordan is bonded to Aisling which intensifies their connection and the sexual attraction that was already there before their bonding. Riordan never wanted a bond, he has serious opposition to it because of the the role it has played in robbing him of his loved ones. That all changes when the inevitable happens and he begins to live and breathe Aisling. 

“sex between bonded pairs had been the cause of power outages, freak storms, and changing tides. It was powerful magic, and she was curious as hell about it” – On sex with a Ravdi aka the person bonded to a witch

Brynach is the Dark Prince of the Unseelie Court and as Aisling’s betrothed, he must ensure her safety at all costs. Brynach has grown up with Aisling which means there’s history and tenderness there. Although they’ve never kissed and at one point it was thought to be a case of unrequited love, all cards are on the table now and he is out to earn her love before they wed. 

“He knew her favorite foods, knew her preferences without having to ask. That’s what a shared history could do. Again, she was reminded that life would be so much easier if she could love him the way everyone wanted her to. All she had to do was give herself permission to fall. She just had to dive in, no looking back.” – Brynach

This book had me from the minute Riordan rode into town…I figured I was going to lose an afternoon but a whole day?!?! compulsively UNPUTDOWNABLE! These characters suck you in and before you know it, you’re invested in their whole backstory and what it is they deeply desire. When reading Fantasy/Romance, I tend to either really love the female main character or her love interest(s), but never both or in this case all three. I absolutely LOVE Aisling with her potion making skills, Tarot reading side job and loyal supportive BFF ways. She was well fleshed out which makes it hard not to root for her getting BOTH fellas, jussayin! haha! Brynach and Riordan are the both sweet and swag rolled into one and the way they love left me at times nodding my head in approval. Especially Riordan who knows how to self love and therefore is unwilling to do anything that compromises that, truly a dream! The sex scenes were off the meter, I was at times sitting at my desk very aware of this being A+ quality content haha! The world building was *Chefs Kiss* on both sides of the veil. I was living my best life Readers. Visually descriptive scenes of Aisling collecting herbs for her potions and the gates to the Unseelie Court opening only once they’ve tasted the blood from your finger prick and identified you, leave you engrossed in this world. This book is beautifully diverse and filled with loving connections.The friendships that make up Aisling’s circle are some of the best I’ve seen on paper. They check on each other and at times check each other if they step out of line, they’re healthy and exactly what we all look for in our friend groups. I’m ready for the next installment and even have a few theories I’d like to see come to fruition 😉 

Content Warning: Homophobia, death of a parent/loved one, Panic attacks, mention of drug addiction, fire/burning, Cancer, PTSD, anxiety


A Curse In Ash hits the shelves October 5th 2021! ❤ ❤ ❤


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Spoiler Free Review: Isn’t It Bromantic? by Lyssa Kay Adams

Title: Isn’t It Bromantic?

Author: Lyssa Kay Adams

Pub. Date: July 20th 2021

Genre: Contemporary/Sports Romance

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Berkley

Pages: 350 pages

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Who else has been counting down the months for the release of The Russian’s story arc?!?! I couldn’t wait, I just knew there was more to him than the comedic scenes we saw him in when reading the other Bromance Book Club books. Happy to report that there is Book Lovers! Vlad aka The Russian is perhaps the ultimate hopeless romantic in the club but he’s running out of that hope that has kept him in a marriage of convenience to Russian journalist Elena Konnikova. Vlad is a famous hockey player who has done well for himself in the United States, marrying Elena who was his childhood best friend was something he was happy to do at the time. Life for Elena in the states has been a mix of both good and not necessarily bad but definitely a big adjustment mixed in with a yearning for home. Vlad takes the approach of giving her space to find her way in her new normal which includes at one point going to Chicago in order to pursue her degree in journalism. The time away from each other doesn’t really help either of them come together in their marriage. We see them stumble through interactions while trying to learn each others boundaries. This changes when Vlad suffers a sports injury and Elena sees this as an opportunity to show him gratitude for all that he’s done for her. In the background we also learn that Elena is actively investigating the mysterious disappearance of her father who was also a journalist. She decides to pick up where he left off with his story on a sex trafficking ring but as we’ve seen in the other installments in this series, things get a bit dark and complicated along the way. 

Vlad and Elena’s story is not just a marriage of convenience, it’s also friends to lovers and SUPER slow burn. I would say around the 52% mark is when we see our characters really start to make progress in their feelings towards one another. It’s not filled with cute moments or steamy scenes, instead we get their backstory in Russia and the childhood memories that pretty much makes their love story feel destined to be. Elena can be a bit stand offish and is self aware that she’s not as warm as other women she comes across. However, if I had to take a guess at her love language I’d say it’s a combo between acts of service and physical touch. The latter posing an issue since Vlad is SUPER respectful of Elena and would NEVER think to even kiss her for fear of pushing her away. As for acts of service, my girl Elena LOVES to cook and bake all of Vlad’s favorite Russian dishes and just so happens to have learned them from his own mother! I was fully invested in their love story and would go as far as saying that it is the most fleshed out from the other couples in the club simply because they share so much history. The fellas reconvene to help The Russian who is adamant about NOT being their next project but eventually gives in because he still has hope for his own love story. Also, Vlad has a project of his own he’s keeping under wraps (won’t say what cause SPOILERS) but I was both surprised and cheesy smiling when reading about his passion. What I didn’t love? I always find the subplots in these books to be very interesting, having the potential to cover some hard hitting topics. That being said, I always end up feeling like the subplots aren’t quite as developed as the romance. The sex trafficking ring we learn about in this book sucked me right in but it quickly wraps up at the end of the book. I would’ve like to see Elena’s journalistic skills come into play some more. What I loved? the healthy dose of our fellas in action, comedic relief, the continued efforts towards fighting toxic masculinity, supportive male AND female friendships as well as our couple in the kitchen cooking together. I’m NEVER quitting the Bromance Book Club!


Book Lovers I’m usually good at guessing whether we’ll get another book and who the love interest would be…this time I have no clue! Taking any guesses and/or info you may have on Lyssa Kay Adams next book <3’s!


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Spoiler Free Review: The Taking of Jake Livingston by Jake Douglass

39085455Title: The Taking of Jake Livingston

Author: Ryan Douglass

Pub. Date: July 13th 2021

Genre: YA Horror/Queer

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Putnam

Pages: 308 pages

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Those that love Horror Noir with atmospheric/creepy vibes may find a new favorite in The Taking Of Jake Livingston, it is intense across the board invoking many emotions all at once. Jake is a black gay Medium who is caught in a life of trauma having to see the death loops of victims that are sort of in limbo. This means his reality bleeds into the spirit world where Ghouls, Demons and Ghosts wander aimlessly. He sees the gruesome ways many have been killed accidentally & those that were not, like the mass school shooting executed by Sawyer Doon. Sawyer, a Caucasian male who was briefly in therapy and mostly at home with a mother who was more ashamed to have a son who struggled with mental health. Sawyer is now haunting Jake and also killing students he wasn’t able to get to before committing suicide at the school. Jake finds himself trying to stop Sawyer while also dealing with racism at his school, bullying, homophobia, and memories of an abusive father who tried to pray away the fact that his son is gay. Told in dual POV, we get to be in Jake and Sawyer’s thoughts all throughout until it’s made clear what it is that Sawyer is after. Haunting and absolutely THE scariest book I’ve read in a long time. 

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I could NOT put this book down! I worried constantly for Jake & how living through the horror of death loops alone would affect his own mental health. Then seeing him in a school where he’s the only black student and how the teachers/students interacted with him, was maddening and heart breaking. We get to live in Jake and Sawyer’s minds, the latter felt like the toughest to read from. Sawyer’s thoughts are from beyond the grave, we’re reading excerpts from his journal and it’s made very clear that Sawyer is aware he’s struggling with mental health. He’s having deeply disturbing thoughts of self harm as well as harming others and it felt as if it was only a matter of time before he gave in and acted on these impulses. We see him go in and out of therapy mainly because his mother feels it brings shame to their family. I can’t say I felt sorry for this character however, I do feel his mother failed him and in doing so contributed to the events that took place at the school. Jake’s POV was also tough for different reasons. I felt paranoid at times which made sense since he couldn’t allow himself to fall into a deep sleep for fear of Sawyer’s ghost killing him. It feels like Jake has become numb to it all but it’s still very shocking to read what he’s witnessing. Towards the last quarter, Jake does have a romance take off (LOVED Alistair) and being that he experienced so much trauma just to exist, I really wanted to see more of him coming into his own. I wouldn’t have minded it being a bit longer just to see more of Jake & Alistair’s relationship really have a chance on the page. All in all I was completely engrossed by this story!

Content Warning: CW: Homophobia, Bullying, Child abuse, off the page domestic violence, Racism, attempted rape, violence, school shooting (graphic), abandonment


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Spoiler Free Review: Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

55518780Title: Ace Of Spades

Author:Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Pub. Date: June 1st 2021

Genre: YA Contemporary/Queer

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Harper/Usborne

Pages: 480 pages

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The 411..

“𝑬𝒗𝒆𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒐𝒖𝒈𝒉 𝑰 𝒌𝒏𝒐𝒘 𝑰 𝒔𝒉𝒐𝒖𝒍𝒅𝒏’𝒕 𝒄𝒂𝒓𝒆, 𝒊𝒕 𝒂𝒏𝒏𝒐𝒚𝒔 𝒎𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒘𝒉𝒆𝒏 𝒈𝒊𝒓𝒍𝒔 𝒌𝒏𝒐𝒘 𝒘𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒚 𝒘𝒂𝒏𝒕 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒉𝒐𝒘 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒚’𝒓𝒆 𝒈𝒐𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒕𝒐 𝒈𝒆𝒕 𝒊𝒕, 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒚’𝒓𝒆 𝒔𝒆𝒆𝒏 𝒂𝒔 𝒄𝒐𝒄𝒌𝒚. 𝑩𝒖𝒕 𝒈𝒖𝒚𝒔 𝒘𝒉𝒐 𝒌𝒏𝒐𝒘 𝒘𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒚 𝒘𝒂𝒏𝒕? 𝑻𝒉𝒆𝒚’𝒓𝒆 𝒄𝒐𝒏𝒇𝒊𝒅𝒆𝒏𝒕 𝒐𝒓 𝒔𝒕𝒓𝒐𝒏𝒈.“

I first heard this book described as 𝐆𝐞𝐭 𝐎𝐮𝐭 meets 𝐆𝗼𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐩 𝐆𝐢𝐫𝐥 which is on point as far as comparisons go. If you enjoyed Alyssa Cole’s 𝐖𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐍𝗼 𝐎𝐧𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐖𝐚𝐭𝐜𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠, I would absolutely pick this one up! Compulsive, addictive and relevant…I couldn’t put it down for too long. Our MC’s Chiamaka Adebayo and Devon Richards are the only two black students at Niveus Private Academy, a private elite school. They come from completely different socioeconomic backgrounds and don’t really run in the same circles. That changes when they find themselves targeted by an anonymous identity known as “Aces” their secrets blasted to the entire school and their reputations smeared. We follow Chiamaka and Devon as they try to unmask Aces while dealing with their own personal relationships outside of the school. Devon is a black gay boy living with his mother and brother. His mom has to work long shifts as a nurse in order to sort of stay afloat and keep Devon at Niveus Private Academy. Devon is a latchkey kid who finds ways to bring extra income to the home by selling drugs in the neighborhood. Being queer in this neighborhood is generally not acceptable, Devon is basically in to completely different worlds on the daily. His approach in school is basically to keep his head down & out of the spotlight. Chiamaka is bi-racial (Nigerian/Italian) and comes from a wealthy family, we see her cope with being disconnected from family who don’t approve of her parents interracial marriage. This while also trying to be the Queen Bee at Niveus Private Academy where having flawless fashion sense is a MUST and dating the popular guy in school doesn’t hurt.

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“The people at the top in high school get into the best colleges, get the best jobs, go on to run the country, and win Nobel Prizes. The rest end up with dead-end jobs, heart failure, and then have to start an affair with their assistant to create some excitement in their otherwise dull lives.”  

I read this book in physical form and lost count of the number of tabs I used and the hours I spent binge reading in mostly one sitting. I felt Àbíké-Íyímídé really showed us the contrast between Chiamaka and Devon and how ultimately their differences didn’t mean anything because it’s the color of their skin they’re being judged on. Both these characters receive ill treatment across the board and it literally feels like the odds are stacked against them. Even though their social conquests differ, they’re both trying to be the best at their craft academically. Niveus is an Academy known to churn out super successful people but it is very cut throat as in the real world. I can’t go into deets about Aces because that would be spoilery but I will say that what made it so frightening is that it isn’t far fetched at all in my opinion. Book lovers, this was a page turner of a debut that I ate right up! HIGHLY recommend adding this book to your TBR’s *book shimmy*

𝐂𝗼𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐖𝐚𝐫𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠: homophobia, Stalking, Violence, outing of a queer character, racism, gaslighting, classism, death of a parent 


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Spoiler Free Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

55404546Title: Malibu Rising

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Pub. Date: June 1st 2021

Genre: Adult/Historical Fiction

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Pages: 384 pages

 

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“She had to choose what, of the things she inherited from the people who came before her, she wanted to bring forward. And what, of the past, she wanted to leave behind.”

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Taylor Jenkins Reid delivered yet another set of characters I found myself easily getting invested in. I spent a Saturday morning binge reading Malibu Rising while at the beach which often can be hard to do, the waves have a way of demanding my full attention. This time, I found myself traveling through history in Malibu as the story unfolds in past & present timelines. There are four siblings who’ve bonded over their love of surfing, each carrying some heavy baggage stemming from childhood. We get an inside look at Mick Riva (their dad) and his marriage to their mom, a toxic one plagued with infidelity which eventually leads to divorce. A mom who has turned to alcoholism to grieve over the life she thought she’d have, that of a happy home with a husband and their kids. We see each of the siblings cope with their abandonment and fend for themselves as they become adults. Nina the oldest of the siblings, finds herself literally walking in her mothers footsteps at the beginning of this journey. However, Nina’s sense of duty and responsibilty keep her bound to her siblings who in many ways she has had to finish raising while also looking after their mom. Tradition is very important to these siblings, and so the present timeline is told over the course of one day at their yearly party. One that started off really intimate between the siblings but eventually morphed into THE party for celebrities from all walks of life. Carrying the Riva name meant fame was their birthright.

CW: Domestic abuse, abandonment, death of a loved one, drug/alcohol abuse, Infidelity

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While The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo still remains my all time favorite, I did really enjoy my time spent in this story. I also found some parts sadly relatable which made me feel more connected to certain characters. I didn’t really care much for the party itself which the story leads up to all throughout. If anything, that took me away from the book more than I would’ve liked and made the main story arc feel a bit disjointed. Things I loved: the sibling bond, atmospheric surfing vibes, women surfers, how compulsively readable it is, the Historical Fiction feel of it all…TJR’s signature writing style really does make you almost believe these aren’t fictional characters. All in all, Malibu Rising is yet another hit for this book lover 🙌🏽


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Spoiler Free Review: Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

55119872Title: Black Water Sister

Author: Zen Cho

Pub. Date: May 11th 2021

Genre: Fantasy/Queer

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Ace Books

Pages: 384 pages

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🖤eGalley provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review, all quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release🖤

The 411..“𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝒖𝒏𝒄𝒍𝒆𝒔 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒂𝒖𝒏𝒕𝒊𝒆𝒔 𝒘𝒆𝒓𝒆 𝒂𝒍𝒍 𝒖𝒏𝒒𝒖𝒆𝒔𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒍𝒚 𝒔𝒖𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒔𝒕𝒊𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒖𝒔. 𝑻𝒉𝒆𝒚 𝒕𝒂𝒍𝒌𝒆𝒅 𝒂𝒃𝒐𝒖𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒖𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒏𝒂𝒕𝒖𝒓𝒂𝒍 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒂𝒎𝒆 𝒎𝒊𝒙𝒕𝒖𝒓𝒆 𝒐𝒇 𝒎𝒂𝒕𝒕𝒆𝒓-𝒐𝒇- 𝒇𝒂𝒄𝒕 𝒂𝒄𝒄𝒆𝒑𝒕𝒂𝒏𝒄𝒆 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒄𝒂𝒖𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉 𝒘𝒉𝒊𝒄𝒉 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒚 𝒅𝒊𝒔𝒄𝒖𝒔𝒔𝒆𝒅 𝒑𝒐𝒍𝒊𝒕𝒊𝒄𝒔, 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒎𝒖𝒄𝒉 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒂𝒎𝒆 𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒔𝒐𝒏- 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒏𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒓 𝒌𝒏𝒆𝒘 𝒘𝒉𝒐 𝒎𝒊𝒈𝒉𝒕 𝒃𝒆 𝒍𝒊𝒔𝒕𝒆𝒏𝒊𝒏𝒈.“

Black Water Sister is set in Malaysia where we follow our main protagonist Jessamyn who is returning with her parents for the very first time since leaving the country when she was only a toddler. Jessamyn has just graduated college and is in that weird stage of life trying to figure out which path to take. She’s also queer and in love with her girlfriend who she’s trying to maintain a long distance relationship with. Jessamyn isn’t out to anyone really and the stress of this alone is enough to make her believe that the voices she’s begun to hear are all in her head. When her Ah Ma aka Grandmother starts appearing and sort of demanding Jess help her with some unfinished business, things really get interesting for her. When Ah Ma was alive, she was the Medium for a feared and mysterious deity called the Black Water Sister. A gang boss has offended the God and Ah Ma is set on settling the score to appease her and also to transition in the afterlife. This Zillennial Paranormal Urban Fantasy has a little of everything! ghosts, spirits, mob bosses, invasive aunties, and also some heavier topics. There’s attempted rape and sexual assault as well as mention of domestic violence and homophobia. Jess also mentions not wanting to introduce her Indian girlfriend to her parents for fear of racism towards her. These complex relationships are center stage and felt easily relatable all the while taking you on a wild ride through the streets & temples of Penang.

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If the book has a healthy dose of snark and witty banter, I’m always game! this time though it’s not between two love interests. Instead, we get Jessamyn and the ghost of her deceased Ah Ma who she had never really met before her death. Ah Ma is tough as nails and that’s because she didn’t have it easy in life or in love, her kids were also estranged from her. Through Ah Ma, Jess is able to finally answer some questions she’s had about her own relationship with her mother who is Ah Ma’s daughter. I found myself easily invested in these characters and hoping that by the end, they’d bridge some of the gaps keeping them apart. This definitely leans towards the darker side of fantasy due to the heavy dose of violence but it’s balanced out with Ah Ma’s personality. Ah Ma left me shaking my head smiling one too many times with her disbelief at getting stuck so to speak with her granddaughter for a Medium. I absolutely LOVED the snark between her and Jessamyn, it was so much fun to go along with these two! When I first heard that this would be set in Malaysia I immediately added it to my TBR hoping that soon I’d get to dive in and be transported to a country I really didn’t know much about. Although we see Jess in action at the temple of the Black Water Sister, we don’t really see her exploring beyond the home she’s a guest in and the Uber to the temple. There’s mention of her work with photography and I sort of hoped we’d get to see some of Malaysia through her own sorting out of which career path to take post Harvard. Nonetheless, there’s tons of action to keep you on your toes with undeniably witty characters. I will absolutely read whatever Zen Cho writes next!


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Spoiler Free RAVE Review: One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

 54860443Title: One Last Stop

Author: Casey McQuiston

Pub. Date: June 1st 2021

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Format: eGalley

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Pages: 544 pages

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | LIBROFM

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🖤eGalley provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review, all quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release🖤

The 411..

I will preface this review with first asking that you read this book when it hits the shelves next Tuesday June 1st! That it just so happens to be the very first day of Pride month makes this pure PERFECTION! This is a SUPER SEXY, Queer, time-slip Contemporary Romance filled with all the found family feels and New York City History. Specifically the history of the Queer community and the challenges they faced as well as the many strides made leading up to present day. We meet twenty-three year old August who is quite cynical and doesn’t believe in much. She’s spent most of her life assisting her mom in trying to crack a missing persons case and decides it’s time for a change. Moving into a New York City apartment with three other queer roommates and working the night shift at a 24 hour pancake diner fast track August on becoming a true New Yorker. Always on the go. The chances of meeting the same girl on the Q train every day at the same exact time seem almost too good to be true. Yet there Jane is, on the exact morning that August is having a bad start to her day offering her a red scarf to help cover up a coffee stain. Jane, a Chinese Lesbian wearing a leather jacket with 70’s pins. She’s cool and laid back yet charming, sexy and mysterious AF! August CANNOT get her off her mind and thus begins her every morning routine ensuring she gets on the same car train at the exact hour of their first meet. This is NOT for the feint of heart Book Lovers! *turns mini desk fan on* 

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I’ve been waiting to find a 6 star read this year and it being days away from June, I was breaking a sweat thinking it just wasn’t going to happen. This book changed that and I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t expecting it to. Although I enjoyed McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue I didn’t exactly claim it as a favorite in 2019. One Last Stop however, was the EXACT level of romance, steam, and comedy that I crave whenever I pop into the Contemporary genre. This was also a love letter to NYC, the city I was born and raised in and was able to visualize while riding the Q train with these characters. I’ll also never tire of the found family trope because it’s one that I can relate to personally with my own group of life long queer besties. The side characters were also center stage and I loved this so much! they were each so deeply fleshed out and just what August needed as a welcoming committee to the city of NY. She’s a Bisexual 23 year old paving her own way in life and that can be quite scary to do alone…except she doesn’t have to do it alone. She has Niko, the Trans Psychic Latino who read her aura and pretty much decided she had a home with them from the minute they met. Myla, a queer electrical engineer/artist who has habit of inventing weird in-home games that often take a turn for the worse. Wes, a queer Jewish tattoo artist who is in love with their neighbor but can’t muster up the courage to act on it. We get it all in this book! NYC, one hot steamy romance, time jumps to the 70’s, pancake goodness and drag queens my luvs! I can go on for days but part of the fun is getting to know these characters and falling in love with each and every one of them. I’m ready for whatever McQuiston writes next! ❤

P.S. for those thinking of giving the audiobook a go, I’d highly recommend it! the narrator was on point and I have a referral link to Librofm if you find that you’re interested <3’s!


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Spoiler Free Review: The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren

55692620Title: The Soulmate Equation

Author: Christina Lauren

Pub. Date: May 18th 2021

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Gallery Books

Pages: 368 pages

 

GOODREADSBARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON 

 

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🖤eGalley provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review, all quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release🖤The 411..

Single mom Jess Davis is a statistician convinced that the dating scene is just not for her. She’s felt abandoned way too many times and doesn’t want to put her daughter through that again. Jess and her BFF Fizzy hear about GeneticAlly a match making company that is in its early stages of testing. Finding a soulmate through DNA sounds far fetched and she thinks her odds are low. That is until she matches at 98% with one of the app developers!!! 😮 the same guy who walks into the coffee shop every day with ZERO social skills. The guy who is hot AF but is always on the go to even consider his surroundings. Sort of hate-to-love if you can actually hate someone you don’t really know? Think more along the lines of modern day heartwarming tale on the lower end of the steam scale between two individuals who would make quite the odd pairing if you’re only matching by personality. Jess is super relatable as a single mom who is struggling financially to make ends meet even though she’s quite good at what she does for a living. She also happens to have a strong support system between her grandparents and best friend. Jess isn’t fully convinced that GeneticAlly is accurate, she entertains it with skepticism, intrigue, and sarcasm all at once. Dr. River Pena has invested everything into GeneticAlly, it’s basically his baby and although he also doesn’t believe he could’ve matched correctly with Jess…in order to protect the integrity of his research, he has to be willing to date her.

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I didn’t really go into this expecting a steamy romance, my hopes were that I’d walk away with a new favorite Rom-Com and I feel that’s exactly what I got. Besides the developing romance, we get to see a positive f/f friendship where the BFF is more like family. I ADORED Fizzy! a romance writer who has even written a character based off of Jess and honestly every time she threatened to kill her off, I giggled thinking of my own best friend. I would absolutely read a spin-off based on Fizzy’s own escapades which we get a slight glimpse to in this book. Even seven year old Juno was fun to get to know on the page, she’s got such an inquisitive mind and loves the library. Our love interest is just about the only aspect I wish was a bit more fleshed out. We get to know him through his research but it isn’t until the last quarter of the book where we get to see some of his personal life influences like his family. This is also where we learn he’s Latinx which tbh, I would’ve loved to have learned from the very beginning. A more balanced approach towards the main characters is something I find helps me get more invested in their lives. That being said, my heart melted every time Dr. River Pena interacted with little Juno! his respect for women and just his whole love language was *chefs Kiss* perfection!

The Soulmate Equation hits shelves next week Tuesday May 18th


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SPOILER FREE REVIEW: THE FINAL REVIVAL OF OPAL & NEV BY DAWNIE WALTON

Title: The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

Author: Dawnie Walton

Pub. Date: March 30th 2021

Genre: Adult Fiction

Format: eGalley

Publisher: 37 INK

Pages: 400 pages

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON | LIBROFM

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🖤eGalley provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review, all quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release🖤

The 411..

Written in oral history format this is the story of a young black woman with a whole lot of style and personality. A visionary who knew how to entertain and couldn’t see herself working a 9 to 5, Opal knew she’d be recognized one day and catch her big break. Born & raised in Detroit alongside her sister and single working mother, she was always up for a performance. Opal’s sister had the voice and was very attractive while Opal was considered unusual due to having Alopecia Areata. She had begun to lose her hair in patches and while she struggled with self image, it did not deter her from the limelight. Opal didn’t have the voice but what she lacked there she more than made up for in stage presence which eventually led to her getting the attention of Nev Charles. Nev who was out with his manager in search of an act that would enhance his performance which was missing something. A singer/songwriter, Nev was born and raised in Britain but had traveled to New York in search of his big break. Signed to Rivington Records, a small and struggling label who took a chance on him, Nev extends the opportunity to Opal after one of her performances at a bar in Downtown Detroit.

Set during the early 70’s in New York City, a time of political tension and racial injustices reaching a climax. Where artists and musicians were providing commentary through their work and a girl like Opal could find her voice. Opal & Nev were never mainstream however they did have a strong cult following. They appealed to those society considered misfits as well as marginalized teenagers who were coping with all sorts of issues like drug addictions, abuse and self harm. Things decisively change for Opal in particular when Rivington Records decides to sign a band who openly praised the confederate flag. During a promotional concert backstage that flag is waved which leads to Opal taking action in protest, this then leads to an outbreak of violence and the loss of life. Nothing is the same after this night, not for these artists individually or for them as a duo. Decades later Opal is considering a reunion tour of sorts with Nev who has shot to stardom while her career has entered a stage of dormancy. Sunny Shelton the daughter of Jimmy Curtis, the black drummer playing for Opal & Nev who was brutally beaten and killed that night, sees an opportunity to put together an oral history of her idols. What she uncovers while conducting interviews however paints a very different picture of what led up to the violence that night.

Content Warning: drug & pill addiction, overdose, cancer, xenophobia, Infidelity, homophobic slurs, violence, racism, death

People always used to comment on how different the two of us were, but a lot of that was optics. Me and Nev had real soul connections-funny stories about growing up, the hilarious things you do to make your way through this world as an outsider. But behind that there was some heaviness too.

The Final Revival of opal & Nev

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I’ll admit that my interest was initially piqued when I heard rumblings of this book being similar to Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid which I absolutely LOVED in 2019! However, Opal & Nev is its own story also told in oral history format but with a ton of funky personality. Not only did the author do a phenomenal job of bringing Opal & Nev to life but the cast of characters also will remain unforgettable. These voices linger and it’s kind of hard not to open up a web browser and run a search for them even though you know they’re fictional. So much of what was going on in New York during the 70’s with Nixon, racial injustice, and HIV/AIDS was brought to the page in a way that further fleshed out their story. If Opal were a real person in todays society and culture, not only do I think she’d be ICONIC but also she’d be joining grassroots efforts to fight the injustices that continue to plague black communities. I was very close to 5 starring this book & it’s probably still going to make my list for best books of 20201. In between the oral history Sunny is piecing together from each character, we get what’s titled “Editiors Note” from Sunny herself. Sometimes I did feel these parts took me out of the narrative a bit even though I was still genuinely interested in Sunny herself. It was never enough to take away from my enjoyment of the story, perhaps it was a matter of Opal taking center stage so much that I found it hard to pull away from her voice. Overall I found this to be quite the engaging character driven read and I already have my eyes on the audiobook from Librofm which is released this Tuesday March 30th with a FULL cast!


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