Spoiler Free Review: The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas

Title: The Hacienda

Author: Isabel Cañas

Pub. Date: May 3rd 2022

Genre: Paranormal/Historical Fiction

Format: eARC

Publisher: Berkley

Pages: 352

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

Characters: 7/10   Atmosphere: 7/10  Writing Style: 8/10  Plot: 6/10  Intrigue: 7/10  Logic/Relationships: 7/10  Enjoyment: 6/10

Rating: 48/6.8 =  ☆☆ 3 Stars☆☆╮

Rating system created by The Book Roast 

Isabel Canas’ Gothic Historical Fiction set in the aftermath of the Mexican War of Independence has been compared to the likes of Mexican Gothic & Rebecca. The story starts off with Beatriz whose father has been killed as a rebel and their home destroyed, leaving her and her mother in poverty. Begrudgingly taken in by her mother’s Criollo side of the family, Beatriz is constantly reminded of her Mestizo blood and slightly darker complexion. She’s delegated to the kitchen in an effort to avoid having to recognize her as being a part of their family up until she gets noticed by wealthy widower/Hacendado Rodolfo. Seeing no way out of her situation, she takes his marriage proposal even though it goes against everything her father fought for. It also means being disowned by her mother as she leaves for San Isidro to live in the Hacienda. A home she believed to make her own, a home that has a soul of it’s own and is haunted by the horrors that have taken place there. The Hacienda doesn’t accept Beatriz as it’s new Dueña and makes sure she knows this. With her husband away from home on business, Beatriz seeks help from the local priest Andres for a home spiritual cleansing. What she didn’t expect was to learn her husbands dark secrets or to fall for the mysterious priest with secrets of his own.

Atmospheric and dark, It was easy to get sucked in and get spooked right along with our Main character as she unraveled the mystery at the core of this story. This had exorcist vibes all along, and I’ll admit that because of this I was much more interested in our priests POV than Beatriz. There’s teasing of a forbidden romance but that’s just what it remains all throughout the book. We also don’t see much interaction between Beatriz & her new husband. I would say this was more of an exploration of the Casta system and the tension/animosity between Criollos and Mestizos. There’s social commentary with regards to the Hacendados vs. the families who’ve worked the lands, and who then really has rights to the land. As I was reading I kept telling myself this was really well researched which makes sense seeing as Cañas has a doctorate in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. I enjoyed the writing but ultimately felt something was missing and I couldn’t pinpoint what that was. I’m a lover of character driven stories and that may very well be where I felt the disconnect. I’m open to reading more from this author seeing as they cover themes I’m very interested in. This debut novel covers themes of racism, religion, war, colonialism, colorism, bodily autonomy, and the Casta system.

CW: mention of rape and murder, colorism, racism


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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

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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January 2022 Anticipated New Releases

If the Book Gods are listening…I hope 2022 is a much better quality reading year than 2021 *fingers crossed* Not being able to come up with at least ten stand-out reads for 2021 has me in the mood to set some intentions out into the Universe. When this post goes live I’ll probably be tossing and turning trying to figure out what my first read in the New Year will be. I am hella superstitious and 100% believe that the first read pretty much sets the tone for the rest of my reading year. In an effort to scout out potential six star reads, I’ll be posting a monthly Anticipated New Releases. There are sequels out there that I may leave out because they’re by favorite authors but I have yet to read the first book in that particular new series (Katee Roberts Neon Gods/Electric Idol), still they’re on my radar. Hopefully we all can find some new favorites and share in the comments down below any books I have left out. Also, if you already know what your FIRST read in 2022…also leave it down below cause I could use some inspiration 😉

*•.♡FANTASY & SCI-FI♡.•*

*•.♡Fiction & Thrillers♡.•*

Real Easy by Marie Rutkoski (Jan 18th)– A compulsive, tenacious, and unexpectedly hopeful thriller set in a midwestern strip club, told by New York Times bestselling author Marie Rutkoski in the spirit of Gillian Flynn and Tana French – Set in 1999 at the Lovely Lady trip club we meet Samantha who has been dancing for years when she decides to help out the newest dancer learn the ropes. This despite having her plate full with a jealous boyfriend and his young daughter. A night turns deadly when she gives the new dancer a ride home. Holly the detective on the case gets help from another dancer to try & solve the case. We get a story then told in multi POV’s as the investigation makes its rounds between dancers, detectives, children, club patrons AND the killer. 

Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz (Jan 18th) – “A gothic tale full of mystery and romance about a willful female surgeon, a resurrection man who sells bodies for a living, and the buried secrets they must uncover together.” I’m not quite sure if this is YA or not but i don’t believe it to even though shelved as such in Goodreads. This is a gothic story with Historical Fiction/Romance vibes. A reviewer mentioned it reminded them of Down Comes The Night & I was SOLD! In 1817 Edinburgh Hazel Sinnett is a lady who wants to become a surgeon more than a wife. She is kicked out of a renowned lecturers class for being the wrong gender & decides to team up with Jack, a resurrection man. Dr. Beechan has struck a deal with her, if she can pass the medical exam on her own he will allow her to enroll in his classes. For that she will need corpses to study and Jack is the man who digs them up. When men start lingering around cemeteries & friends are disappearing off the streets they find themselves with a mystery to solve.

The School For Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan (Jan 4th) – SCARY AF concept for all the mothers out there like myself! but i’m intrigued nonetheless. Frida Liu is struggling with life, trying to live up to the expectations of her Chinese immigrant parents and also a cheating husband. All that really brings her joy is her daughter Harriett but in this fictionalized world, there exists a government program who keeps an eye out for moms like Frida. Those that may be a bit distracted & look at their phone while at the playground or allow their kid to walk home alone. A Big Brother type institution determines if Frida is a candidate and will measure her motherly devotion to see if she can keep her child. “This propulsive, witty page-turner explores the perils of “perfect” upper-middle-class parenting, the violence enacted upon women by the state and each other, and the boundless love a mother has for her daughter”

The Maid by Nita Prose (Jan 4th) – Described as a Clue-like locked room mystery! SOLD! I was obsessed with playing Clue as a child LOL. Molly Gray is a 25 year old who struggles with social skills and oftentimes misreads others intentions. Her grandmother helped her navigate the world until her death, now Molly throws herself into her job as a maid at the Regency Grand Hotel. Her unique character and obsessive need to clean make her a perfect fit until wealthy Mr. Black ends up dead in his bed. Friends she didn’t even know she had rally to try and help clear name as she is deemed suspect #1. 

Wahala by Nikki May (Jan 11th)An incisive and exhilarating debut novel of female friendship following three Anglo-Nigerian best friends and the lethally glamorous fourth woman who infiltrates their group—the most unforgettable girls since Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda (Goodreads). I couldn’t have added Wahala faster to my MUST read in 2022 list. 

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xóchitl González (Jan 4th) – a Latinx debut featuring two siblings living successful career lives in New York City. It’s 2017, Olga is a tony wedding planner for Manhattan’s powerbrokers. She orchestrates beautiful story book weddings for the rich but is unable to find love until she meets the one who has her confront the effects of long held family secrets. Her brother Pedro “Prieto” Acevedo is a popular congressman in a gentrifying Latinx neighborhood. Behind closed doors, they deal with their mothers abandonment. Blanca left them to their grandmother in order to join the Young Lord 27 years ago and re-enters their life at the same time as hurricane Maria makes landfall in Puerto-Rico.

*•.♡Romance♡.•*

D’Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding. by Chencia C. Higgins (Jan 25th) – an LGBTQIA+ romance based on the fake dating trope. We meet Kris Zavala who is looking for her big break as an influencer & joining the reality tv show could help and also win her $100,000. D’Vaughn Miller is trying to break out of her shell and alo hasn’t come out to her mother, joining the show can be her chance to do so. They have to convince all of their friends & family of this romance and get married in 6 weeks. If anyone guesses it’s all fake, they’re off the show. The great thing is their chemistry is actually very real. The downside is that the show puts those real feelings in jeopardy. 

Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon (Jan 11th) – “A TV meteorologist and a sports reporter scheme to reunite their divorced bosses with unforecasted results in this charming romantic comedy from the author of The Ex Talk.” AND it’s set in Seattle! My dream city…say no more! 

Running Wild (The Simple Wild #3) by K.A. Tucker (Jan 25th) – I won’t go into too much detail since this is now the third book in a running series. Here we follow Veterinarian Marie who we’ve met as an ex of our main character’s love interest. Marie was in love with her best friend for many years but it was unrequited, now she is worried time is running out on finding her love & possibly having children. Things get interesting when she meets someone while volunteering at a dog sled race. I will read ANYTHING & EVERYTHING K.A Tucker writes.

*•.♡Young Adult♡.•*

Wow I did NOT expect this post to be this long but the sleuths of the interwebz were hard at work the last days of 2021 and my list kept growing. Sound off in the comments Book Lovers, what are some of the titles you’re looking forward to?

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Spoiler Free Review: Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart

51813582Title: Witches Steeped in Gold

Author: Ciannon Smart

Pub. Date: April 20th 2021

Genre: YA Fantasy

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Harper Teen

Pages: 544 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..

This Jamaican-inspired Young Adult Fantasy follows two enemy witches who must form an alliance in order to take down the Queen. The Obeah ruling family (Iraya’s people/natural born magic) has been killed and their people enslaved by the Alumbrar (Jazmyne’s people/Use of magic via Conduits.)  Jazmyne happens to be the Queen’s daughter, only she doesn’t agree with how the Queen rules the people and hopes to overthrow her and take up the throne. Jazmyne is active in a rebel group plotting to eliminate the Queen when she hears of Iraya having survived her parents assasination. The last remaining heir of the previous ruling family, Iraya is a witch who was born with natural powers. See, in this world there are two ways to come about magic and that’s either through conduits to syphon it OR you’re naturally born with it. We first meet Iraya at the start of this story as she sits in jail plotting her vengeance on the Alumbrar Queen and whoever else played a part in killing her loved ones. Jazmyne plans to utilize Iraya to kill her mother, Iraya plans to allow herself to be used whilst carrying out a plan of her own. 

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I’ll preface my thoughts by saying that I am not an Own Voices reviewer for this story however I do encourage you seek them out. Joel from FictionalFates on Booktube gave it a 5 star rating and is an Own Voice reviewer for the Jamaican representation. I gave this a 3 star rating which means I enjoyed many aspects however there were a few things I wish had been ironed out. The world building is where I struggled quite a bit and that isn’t because of its complexity, I love my Fantasy to be meaty and in depth. However, the first half of this book doles out a ton of information and I felt it threw off the pacing. I’ll admit to even being confused for about 40% of the story while trying to take notes. The magic system is very interesting considering magic is attainable through other means if you’re not born with it.  We don’t really get to see them in action much since the Obeah’s abilities are being surpressed by the Alumbrar. Some of the history that lead to the suppression of Obeah magic doesn’t get explained till much later in the story. Also, the Obeah aren’t the only people seeking to overthrow the Queen so there are a few power pieces on the board closing in on her that I would’ve liked to see more of. There’s a ton of plotting, scheming and double dealing which I happen to love in my Fantasy reads. There are characters who have good intentions but end up losing themselves along the way, I did enjoy Iraya’s POV more than Jazmyne. However, by the end of the story Jazmyne managed to get my attention back as I wondered what fate awaits her. All in all, I’m looking forward to the sequel and seeing if these characters can coexist.


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Top 10 Books of 2020…

Not Lilly starting 2021 with a Top 10 of 2020? *side eye* this post should’ve gone up last week but your girl was enjoying her birthday shennanigans haha! Hello Book Lovers & Happy New Year! I originally was aiming for a Top 20 0f 2020 however as I’m sure many of you can relate to, I found I read a lot less this past year than I ever have. So, instead of reaching to deliver a Top 20 I decided to go with the books I have ZERO hesitations reaching for on my shelf. These are titles that invoked a range of emotions and/or left me with new and memorable characters I’ll be thinking about for quite some time. I would also love to see your favorite books of 2020 posts, drop those links down below <3’s!


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TAKE A HINT, DANI BROWN BY TALIA HIBBERT (SPOILER FREE REVIEWThis book will forever go down in the books as having the MOSt swoon worthy couple EVER! I fell head over heels for both Dani & Zaf who are complete polar opposites that compliment each other. Dani is a daughter of Oshun, a witch who is fiercely independent & closed off to the idea of love. Zaf listens to romance books, helps youth males shed toxic masculinity through his foundation, and worships the ground Dani walks on. Sexy AF couple GOALS Bookworms!

THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE BY V.E. SCHWAB (SPOILER FREE REVIEWI allowed myself to get swept into this Historical Fiction story of a girl born way ahead of her times. Addie seeks to escape a life of domesticity she will certainly be tied to when married off by her parents. A prayer made at night and heard by the wrong God grants her the chance to strike a deal. Immortality of sorts, her soul to be rendered to Lucifer once she tires of it. The deal is made with stipulations, Addie will not be remembered by anyone once she is out of sight even if for a few minutes. This book had me up at all hours of the night thinking about the footprints we leave behind. Yes, I absolutely was left heartbroken at the very end.

SUCH A FUN AGE BY KILEY REID (RTC) This was my last read of 2020 thanks to my good friend Taylor at NerdNarration who gifted me a copy. I also listened to the audiobook which delivered an A+ performance. I can’t think of a better time to have read this book than in 2020, the year that many were forced to take off their rose colored glasses and see their own internalized racism and microagressions. Told in dual POV we follow Emira who is a young black woman working as a sitter for a white family. Emira is asked to do the family a favor and take their little girl for a walk (in the middle of the night) while they sort through some things at home with the police. Emira is then approached by a neighborhood Karen at the Supermarket and accused of having possibly kidnapped the child in her charge. It’s not meant to make you comfortable, it’s one of those reads I’ll never forget.

ANXIOUS PEOPLE BY FREDRIK BACKMAN (RTC) I went in blind to this book and honestly feel like this is the BEST way to go in! I listened to the audiobook which starts off with a bank robbery gone wrong but also in the BEST of ways LOL smh. I have yet to write my review but that’s because I loved it so much and don’t feel I can do it justice. All I will say is that in 2021 I will be making my way through Fredrik Backman’s books.

MEXICAN GOTHIC BY SILVIA MORENO-GARCIA (SPOILER FREE REVIEWHAUNTING AF! Also the book that has sent me on a “MUST buy all Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s books” quest #noregrets This Gothic Noir story transports you to High Place, a sort of mansion where Noemi our MC has arrived in search of answers. Noemi’s cousin who has married and left to High Place has been sending Noemi strange letters that are concerning. Is she ill or are there nefarious acts afoot at High Place? This was a ride! I didn’t expect where it took me but I was engrossed in the atmospheric setting nonetheless. This is not just horror written for the scare factor, there are also themes of eugenics and colonization weaved into this story that speak to Silvia Moreno Garcia’s level of craft.

INCENDIARY BY ZORAIDA CORDOVA (SPOILER FREE REVIEWI actually laughed out loud when I started typing for this one simply because I would NOT call it a night until I read the last page of this book. I remember my boyfriend giving me that look and the scream/jump I gave when I read the last line…Yeah it was a cliffhanger! the MOTHER LOAD of all cliff hangers at 2am smh! I love Zoraida Cordova and found that compared to the Brooklyn Brujas trilogy, I much prefer the older side of YA writing delivered in this book. Set during the Spanish Inquisition in a Fantasy world where magic is deemed a disease, we meet Renata who can steal other peoples powers. She is taken at a young age and weaponized until she matures into a young woman and crosses over to the rebel side. A more twisty YA Fantasy I haven’t read in a long time & the crew of characters will be a hit for those who enjoyed Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.

LOBIZONA BY ROMINA GARBER (SPOILER FREE REVIEW) This one raised the bar for me when choosing YA Fantasy to read. I was blown away by how Romina Garber managed to portray the feelings of displacement felt by many young immigrants. Our MC Manu is caught between two worlds, an immigrant from Argentina living in hiding in Miami Florida she stumbles into a world of magic. Witches, werewolves, a magical school with their own sport paired with important themes of gender identity and immigration  made this one an absolute favorite of the year!

HOUSE OF BLOOD AND EARTH BY SARAH J. MAAS (SPOILER FREE REVIEWI picked this one up on release day which was back in March before the country shut down and all ish hit the fan to be quite honest. SJM provided the escapism I so desperately needed at the time. By now we all know what to expect when reading a book by SJM, characters you can’t help but get invested in & a compulsivly readable plot. Do not read the synopsis on GR if you plan on reading this book! it’s super spoilery and you’ll be robbing yourself of the heartbreak everyone else experienced who didn’t read the synopsis. Angels, Fae, Wolves and a lovable Fire Sprite who loves watching Fangs & Bangs…mhmmm it’s exactly what you’re thinking LOL!


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A Diverse Non-Fiction November…

Hola Book Lovers! It’s been quite some time since I picked up a Non-Fiction book, but the mood hit yesterday and before I knew it I had 5 books I’d like to read this month. I’m not too surprised this was a last minute thing since that pretty much sums up most of my reading this year. That it just so happens to be Non-Fiction November is a plus! Earlier this morning I finished listening to  In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado. I expected the horror noir vibes but wasn’t expecting it to hit on a personal level. This is going to be a tough read but for those who are interested in the audiobook, the author does narrate it herself which personally made the delivery that much more profound. I’ll hopefully have a mini-review up for In the Dream House this weekend.

DIVERSE NON-FICTION I’M READING THIS MONTH


IN THE DREAM HOUSE BY CARMEN MARIA MACHADODocuments the authors own experience within an abusive same-sex relationship. I wasn’t expecting to listen to this in one sitting but it happened. At times very hard to listen to, raw and unflinching in its honesty. The author wants to raise awareness of how abuse within queer relationships is handled. The fact that often times victims aren’t believed unless there are visible scars & even then it’s sort of swept under the rug. The toxicity in this relationship ranges from emotional to verbal & at times even physical, I’d say you have to be in the right mind space.

BORN A CRIME BY TREVOR NOAH “Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.” I’ve followed Trevor Noah on The Daily Show for some time now & heard amazing reviews about his memoir, it’s time to dig in! 

ORDINARY GIRLS BY JAQUIRA DIAZ“Ordinary Girls is a fierce, beautiful, and unflinching memoir from a wildly talented debut author. While growing up in housing projects in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach, Jaquira Díaz found herself caught between extremes: as her family split apart and her mother battled schizophrenia, she was surrounded by the love of her friends; as she longed for a family and home, she found instead a life upended by violence. From her own struggles with depression and sexual assault to Puerto Rico’s history of colonialism, every page of Ordinary Girls vibrates with music and lyricism. Díaz triumphantly maps a way out of despair toward love and hope to become her version of the girl she always wanted to be.” Thank YOU Bookstagram for placing this book on my feed cause the minute I saw the cover I ran over to Goodreads for a synopsis. This sounds like it will be a powerful read! 

THE UNDOCUMENTED AMERICANS – “One of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard reveals the hidden lives of her fellow undocumented Americans in this deeply personal and groundbreaking portrait of a nation. Writer Karla Cornejo Villavicencio was on DACA when she decided to write about being undocumented for the first time using her own name. It was right after the election of 2016, the day she realized the story she’d tried to steer clear of was the only one she wanted to tell. So she wrote her immigration lawyer’s phone number on her hand in Sharpie and embarked on a trip across the country to tell the stories of her fellow undocumented immigrants–and to find the hidden key to her own.” Having had many of my own family members battle for years to obtain their paperwork for an opportunity to live & work in the USA, this one is HIGH up on my priority list. 

HOOD FEMINISM – “Today’s feminist movement has a glaring blind spot, and paradoxically, it is women. Mainstream feminists rarely talk about meeting basic needs as a feminist issue, argues Mikki Kendall, but food insecurity, access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, a living wage, and medical care are all feminist issues. All too often, however, the focus is not on basic survival for the many, but on increasing privilege for the few. That feminists refuse to prioritize these issues has only exacerbated the age-old problem of both internecine discord and women who rebuff at carrying the title. Moreover, prominent white feminists broadly suffer from their own myopia with regard to how things like race, class, sexual orientation, and ability intersect with gender. How can we stand in solidarity as a movement, Kendall asks, when there is the distinct likelihood that some women are oppressing others?” I’m MOST stoked to read this one, I have both the audiobook and a physical copy I was gifted from a friend. It’s important for me to read books with a focus on intersectional feminism. 


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FEBRUARY 2020 BOOK HAUL

Hello Bookworms! I honestly am looking for ways to occupy my mind away from the very grim reality we are all facing. That means I may actually get some more reading & reviewing done, glass half full amiright? I read some really good books in February that I’ll break down in my Wrap-up which should be up early this week. I’m still keeping to my 2020 goal of buying only my favorites OR titles I know I’ve been eager to get to. I also happened to take a trip to Philadelphia & stopped by one of my favorite Comic Book shops on South Street Atomic City Comics. This comic book shop has such a chill vibe with AMAZING staff that really go out of their way to talk to their customers & make some dope recommendations. I LOVE their spotlight table where you can find titles featuring LGBTQIA+ and POC, Abbott (Pictured down below) is one of the titles I scooped up from their shop 🤗

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LADY MECHANIKA VOLUME 1 | ABBOTT | THE SIMPLE WILD (WILD #1) | WILD AT HEART (WILD #2)| THE LIBRARY OF THE UNWRITTEN (HELL’S LIBRARY #1) | LOVEBOAT, TAIPEI (LOVEBOAT, TAIPEI #1) | WHERE DREAMS DESCEND (ARC) | STARSIGHT (SKYWARD #2)

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ANNA K | THINGS IN JARS | WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT

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ALL THE STARS AND TEETH


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Spoiler Free Review: Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

Title: Dark and Deepest Red

Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

Pub. Date: January 14th 2020

Genre: YA Historical Fiction/LGBTQIA+

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan

Pages: 309 Pages

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLES | AMAZON 

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

“Well-crafted seams and delicate beading gave my family a trade and a living. But red shoes gave us a name. They made us infamous. They made us brazen. Until they came for us. Except that’s not quite true. They didn’t come for us. They came for me.”

I’ve always been intrigued by the Salem Witch trials & the mass hysteria caused by outcries of devil worship. This story however takes place in 1500’s Strasbourg, a time when Romani people were being forced out of France & Germany. Our MC Lala is a Romani girl, she is a person of color, unwed, makes her own living and is in love with a transgender boy. She must give up all Romani traditions & beliefs if she is to pass off as German or French in Strasbourg. Lala has a target on her back when the women are inflicted with dancing fever, a dance they cannot stop & often ends in injury or death. Witchcraft is believed to be at the very heart of these dances as more and more women are touched by the fevered dance. The author gives us Lala’s POV during this time while also jumping ahead to her descendants in current time.

Five centuries later we meet Rosala Oliva & Emil who have ties to Lala & figuring out what those are may help stop the dancing fever from returning. Rosala’s family has been making the red shoes said to deliver a bit of magic to its wearer. Being Romani is something Rosala & Emil have in common, something they know makes them different. Five centuries later their traditions and beliefs aren’t something they’re made to feel they can openly share. When the threat of the Dancing Fever looms over Rosala she turns to Emil who is the only person who can shed some light on the history that binds her both literally & figuratively to her red shoes.

Content Warning: death, religious persecution, racism, homophobia/transphobia, some body horror

We follow two sets of characters, those in 1500’s Strasbourg & those in present day. I personally loved how well fleshed out Lala, Tante, and Alifair are as their part of history is brought to life. Lala knows it’s only a matter of time before she’s made a target of injustice & hate once the dancing fever takes a hold. She knows the odds are well stacked against her even as she falls deeply in love with Alifair who is a transgender boy. Seeking acceptance from those around them is something both Lala & Rosella share in common. They make themselves blend in so as to stay safe. Both learn that embracing that which sets them apart is really the only way to fight back oppression. I admired Alifair’s strength & how protective he is of his found family (Lala & Tante) while also carrying his own secret that if exposed would mean sure death.

Emil & Rosala were also very interesting characters to follow as they navigate relationships with their peers. Their parents have passed down their own knowledge of things that happened during the 1500’s to some of their ancestors. A knowledge that weighs heavy because it’s filled with pain, violence, and persecution for being Romani. These characters know they carry within them a history so rich it’s seeping into their day to day lives. It’s safe to say McLemore has once again delivered an unforgettable cast of characters.

Told in Multiple POV format this is a YA Historical Fantasy in which we follow two sets of characters. Most of the focus however is on Lala & her family in the 1500’s, these characters are well fleshed out vs. the ones we meet in present day. That being said, I felt this worked well since history has a way of repeating itself. Understanding where it all started was emphasized in the way this story was weaved. Although difficult to see, the time I spent reading Lala’s POV was perhaps what I loved most about this book. This may be my bias because I hold a special place in my heart for Historical Fiction but the touch of magical realism McLemore delivers so well is really what draws me in. Scenes with Tante dyeing cloth to sell in rich colors contrasted against the fevered women dancing through the streets till their feet were raw visually stand out. The heavy blanket of anxiety that sits on top of these characters is felt by the reader. Despite the darkness, I am thankful for how McLemore is consistent with delivering a sense of hope with all of their stories. There is a sense of solidarity that comes through at the very end that stirred up some deep emotions within me. I will continue to read all that Anna-Marie McLemore writes for the simple fact that their stories leave a lasting impression in my soul.


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Spoiler Free Review: Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Title: Get A Life, Chloe Brown

Author: Talia Hibbert

Pub. Date: November 5th. 2019

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Avon

Pages: 373 Pages

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLES | AMAZON

Chloe Brown has had a near death experience one morning that leaves her pretty shaken while also reinvigorated. She is a chronically ill computer geek who sets out with a list of 7 things she must do in order to give life some meaning…

✔️Move out of mansion & into own place

Enjoy a drunken night out
Ride a motorcycle
Go camping
Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex
Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage
And… do something bad

We start off with Chloe moving into her own digs & adjusting to life as a tenant. Accomplishing some of the things on her list becomes interesting when she recruits Redford”Red” Morgan the handyman she is constantly at odds with. Red is automatically put off by Chloe’s wealthy background & because of that they are always sparring with words. We follow Chloe & Red as they tackle this list and in turn get to know one another better while breaking past many misconceptions.

Chloe-I truly fell in love with Chloe’s personality! she is a beautiful plus sized black woman who exudes confidence despite the fact that many of her days are spent with chronic pain. She’s single & sort of has her walls up because Chronic pain isn’t something easily explained. Chloe has already experienced heartbreak with her ex who believed her pain was mental & not a real thing. She’s not by any means jaded, she’s just weary of those she lets in her space. A true geek through & through, Chloe works doing web design from the comfort of her home with a Playstation nearby.

Red- Sexy, tattooed, Handyman/Painter Red Morgan won me over for a number of reasons. Not only is Red attentive & nurturing but he’s genuinely just a good guy who has also been through heartbreak. Having experienced a very toxic relationship with a very wealthy woman, Red is not expecting to fall for yet another. What I loved about Red? the fact that he didn’t try to dissect Chloe’s pain, it was written on her face. Instead Red went about finding ways to make their trips outdoors more comfortable for her.

Both Chloe & Red are wonderful characters but so were the side characters.  I LOVED reading scenes with Chloe’s fabulous grandmother & her sisters. She’s surrounded by an amazing support system who also happen to be very curious about her new comings & goings now that she has a new lease on life haha!

I read this whole book in a British accent & had such a good time! the flirting between Chloe & Red had me smiling from ear to ear, often times outright laughing out loud at the awkward situations. I loved how dialogue heavy this was because it allows you to get a real feel for the characters. Chloe in particular really came to life on the page as someone I could relate to. She’s very body positive & confident in who she is which I love seeing in my books. Her character will be very hard to forget, besides the fact that she is outright funny as hell she’s also fiercely independent. Chloe doesn’t want to burden anyone & giving love another shot isn’t on the list but she manages to surpass her fears. This book really is about learning how to love again in a healthy way after leaving behind toxic relationships. It’s about taking back control of your life & living each day to the fullest. It’s about breaking past misconceptions surrounding chronic pain & understanding how painful it can be to have your pain dismissed. Adding this one to my list of Romantic Comedies I absolutely adored!


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