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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Friday Reads and Thangs…

This New Yorker is prepared to be snowed in and to be honest I’m excited for it! The snow estimates have been all over the place with some as low as 7 inches to  10+ inches *GASP*  It is so rare that I ever get to slow down and just wind down any day of the week or weekend that I don’t know what to do with myself LOL! I’m really looking forward to my resistance and strength training workouts this weekend since I’ll have a blanket of snow for a view which we haven’t seen in a really long time. Of course I have my reading plans in place and also some things I’d like to watch on Apple TV and HBO. On the healthy/self-love end of things, I’ve been weaning myself off of Starbucks Cold Brews cause as much as I love this drink, it absolutely drives up my anxiety. Instead i’ve been alternating between juicing (spinach, mangos, apples, pine apples and chia seeds in 8 oz of water), smoothies (strawberries, 1 banana, blueberries in 80z of water with 1 tbsp of flax seeds), and teas (Ginger or Peach Green Tea) which have made a HUGE difference in my mood and metabolism. I had planned for this post to go live early this morning but back to back meetings threw a wrench in that. So, let’s get into the books cause ya girl still has 3 miles to run *sobs* for cardio.

I’ve been on a thriller kick this week which I attribute mostly to me just not being in the mood for Fantasy and the escapism it offers. Instead I opted for serial killers and a group of vengeful women getting justice for the murders of their children…don’t know what that says about me these past 7 days but I went with it. Look out for my Three Thriller Mini Review post going up next week featuring yet another thriller that I’m currently listening to.

In My Dreams I Hold A Knife by Ashley Winstead (RTC)

The Collective by Alison Gaylin (RTC)

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano (My Review)

This morning Libby delivered the audiobook for A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham and before I knew it…I had attended 3 meetings, meal prepped for this weekend and cleaned out my bathrooms while powering through this book. IT’S SO GOOOOOD Book Lovers! Our MC is a psychologist in a small Louisiana town where 20 years prior, her father had been imprisoned for the murder of 6 young girls. I’m about 60% in and hope to finish the rest tonight in the gym but all I can say is that this story is engrossing. Once I’m done with Flicker, I’m jumping right back into the island of Kekon with my favorite gangster family in Jade War. Having recently read and loved Jade City (My review), I really don’t want too much time to pass where I forget key details.

Euphoria was recommended to me by both friends & family to the point I just couldn’t escape it anymore. It’s INTENSE and I have had to take breaks in between episodes to process certain scenes but it’s excellently written. Anyone who is interested in watching the show should know that it focuses heavily on addiction. I’m starting season 2 this weekend and a part of me is not ready but I’m going in regardless.

Ted Lasso! this show caught me by surprise BIG time and I’m not even sure why I was resistant to starting it. My BFF kept asking me every week if I’d watched it so I figured it was time and I LOVE it so much that i’m savoring each episode so as to not finish the first season.


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Review: Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Title: Finlay Donovan Is Killing It

Author:Elle Cosimano

Pub. Date: February 2nd 2022

Genre: Contemporary Mystery/Thriller

Format: Audiobook

Publisher: Minotaur Books

Pages: 355 pages/9 hrs 59 min

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | LIBROFM | AMAZON 

Characters: 7/10   Atmosphere: 0/10  Writing Style: 7/10  Plot: 8/10  Intrigue: 0/10  Logic/Relationships: 10/10  Enjoyment: 6/10

Rating: 38/5.4 ☆☆ 3 Stars☆☆╮

Rating system created by The Book Roast ╰☆☆𝐌𝐲 𝐆𝐨𝐨𝐠𝐥𝐞 𝐬𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐜𝐡 𝐡𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲 𝐚𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐛𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐲 𝐞𝐧𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 𝐭𝐨 𝐩𝐮𝐭 𝐦𝐞 𝐨𝐧 𝐚 𝐠𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐧𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐜𝐡 𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐭. 𝐈 𝐰𝐫𝐨𝐭𝐞 𝐬𝐮𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐬𝐞 𝐧𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐥𝐬 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐦𝐮𝐫𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬. 𝐈𝐝 𝐬𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐝 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐤𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐨𝐧𝐞. 𝐖𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐢𝐯𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐰𝐞𝐚𝐩𝐨𝐧.” ☆☆╮

Finlay Donovan is a single mother of two who is struggling to launch her career as a Mystery/Thriller writer post divorce all the while being stripped of her nanny. We meet Finlay on a very chaotic morning as she tries to get her kids ready before a meeting with her agent since she is on deadline for a book. Findlay has an outspoken five year old who is pretty much getting into everything and anything she can when mom is not looking. During her meeting she discusses the premise of her novel and is overhead by a customer sitting nearby, this stranger misunderstands Finlay and believes her to be a hit-woman for hire. This woman approaches Finlay with the name of her husband on a piece of paper, she is offering Finlay a substantial amount of money (*Side note* Life after divorce has left Finlay in need of income since she hasn’t sold a book in quite a bit and her bills are stacking up) to kill and dispose of his body. Our MC is flabbergasted and immediately thinks to herself I can’t do this but those thoughts quickly change to well it wouldn’t hurt to find out why this woman wants her husband dead. Lots of Google searches and undercover nights while juggling the responsibilities of a single mom on deadline for a book, make for a mystery with lots of comedic scenes.

I enjoyed this fast paced witty audiobook, although I was convinced I’d end up loving it since it does have a ton of hype in the book community. There were some very funny laugh out loud moments but this is one where you want to suspend all disbelief and just enjoy the ride. Now, I don’t see this mentioned anywhere but since I listened to the audiobook I’ll just go ahead and say it…Finlay’s 5 year old was NOT my favorite, the voice she made really made me want to stop listening and switch to physical reading. A part of me believes she was intentionally making that voice to irritate Finlay but still I couldn’t help not being annoyed. There were some characters I loved like Finlay’s nanny turned sidekick Vero and the nosey neighborhood watch lady who keeps a log of comings/goings but we don’t get much of her. Personally, I feel our MC reads as very relatable when it comes to the aspects of handling motherhood and a career while also co-parenting in a difficult situation. We see her sort of unintentionally get her groove back when she’s dressing up for these undercover gigs. There are love interests that I felt would’ve been nice to see more chemistry between but I also appreciated that her romantic life wasn’t center stage to the plot.  As for the general plot itself, it was entertaining seeing Finlay get into one messy situation after another wondering how she would dig her way out. If you enjoyed Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala, then this would be a good fit for you. Will I be picking up Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead? how could I not after that epilogue which was *jaw dropping* 


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Review: Olga Dies Dreaming by Xóchitl Gonzalez

Title: Olga Dies Dreaming

Author: Xóchitl Gonzalez

Pub. Date: January 4th 2022

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/LGBTQIA+

Format: Audiobook – Libro.FM & Book Of The Month

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Pages: 384 pages/11 hrs 22 min

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | LIBROFM | AMAZON

Characters: 10/10   Atmosphere: 10/10  Writing Style: 10/10  Plot: 6/10  Intrigue: 0/10  Logic/Relationships: 8/10  Enjoyment: 8/10

Rating: 52/7.4 =  ☆☆ Stars☆☆╮

Rating system created by The Book Roast 

☆☆ “𝐋𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐬𝐡𝐞’𝐝 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐞𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐚 𝐒𝐜𝐨𝐨𝐛𝐲-𝐃𝐨𝐨 𝐞𝐩𝐢𝐬𝐨𝐝𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐩𝐮𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐝 𝐨𝐟𝐟 𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐨𝐰𝐧 𝐦𝐚𝐬𝐤, 𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞 𝐬𝐡𝐞’𝐝 𝐛𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐇𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐲-𝐆𝐨-𝐋𝐮𝐜𝐤𝐲 𝐏𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐲 𝐏𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐧𝐞𝐫 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐢𝐧 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐬𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐫𝐢𝐟𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐄𝐝𝐮𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐖𝐨𝐦𝐚𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐂𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐫” ☆☆╮

Olga Dies Dreaming is a dual point of view story that toggles between present day and timelines that date back to the early 2000’s. We follow Olga and Pedro aka “Prieto” Acevedo as they navigate their lives and careers while also dealing with an absent mother who makes her presence known through letters and visits from fellow associates. Blanca abandoned her children when they were very young to fight for a liberated Puerto-Rico, never making her whereabouts known since she’s the leader of a small group of liberation radicals known as the “Pañuelos Negros” who are akin to the Black Panthers. Olga has made a career out of wedding planning for the elite in NYC Manhattan while also keeping love and romance at arms length. She’s out to break stereo-types as a Latinx business owner and has turned her back on ALL things related to her mom & issues plaguing Puerto-Rico. Olga’s brother Prieto is a popular Congressman in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood who is torn between being present as a good father for his daughter vs. wanting to protect Puerto-Rico from exploitation. Prieto is flawed there’s no denying that, his intentions started off good as he struggled with finding his role and how to do his part in helping the island. Ultimately I found his actions in politics to be very spineless and damaging to the island.

Whenever I pick up a book by a debut author, I’m looking to see if they’re characters are compelling enough for me to get invested in their back stories. Gonzalez delivered top tier character development and gave each one a distinctive voice, down to the absentee mother whose presence was felt through a series of evocative letters.  Both siblings have serious abandonment issues that are in need of healing as it continues to play a role in the decisions they make with their loved ones and in their respective careers. They both seek validation from a mother who abandoned her role in their lives and lives/breathes her cause, something they still can’t accept.

This book won’t be for every reader especially since woven in the text is a lot of history centered around the Puerto-Rican diaspora. There is a heavy emphasis on politics both in gentrifying NYC neighborhoods as well as the relationship between the mainland United States and Puerto-Rico. I can appreciate this since so much went down when Hurricane Maria made landfall in 2017 leaving the island in the dark and many of us outsiders with family on the island, feeling helpless and frantic. PREPA and the shady political behaviors by the Governor which we watched in real life get exposed, are mentioned in this book which may shed some light to those who didn’t know much about it. The conclusion wrapped up a bit too quick for my liking for a book that mostly was medium paced with many complex layers to unravel. I listened to the audiobook and gave the performance 5 stars, the narrator knocked it out the park. I felt the audiobook specifically, really brought Blanca’s letters to life and made her passionate pleas to rally up more powerful. There were scenes I found hard and heavy to get through, especially when Prieto visits the towns in Puerto-Rico and speaks to citizens who are exhausted and feeling forgotten without water or light. Overall, it was an impactful memorable read that has placed Xóchitl on my radar for any future releases.

CW: Death of a parent, rape, suicide, cheating, divorce, cancer, serophobia, gentrification, abandonment, drug addiction, homophobic slurs, racism


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Spoilery GUSH Review: Jade City by Fonda Lee

Title: Jade City

Author: Fonda Lee

Pub. Date: June 26th 2018

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Orbit

Pages: 560 pages

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON

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

Rating: 70/10 =  ☆☆ 5 Stars☆☆╮

Rating system created by The Book Roast 

☆☆ “𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐥𝐚𝐧 𝐢𝐬 𝐦𝐲 𝐛𝐥𝐨𝐨𝐝, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐏𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐚𝐫 𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐭𝐬 𝐦𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐫. 𝐎𝐧 𝐦𝐲 𝐡𝐨𝐧𝐨𝐫, 𝐦𝐲 𝐥𝐢𝐟𝐞, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐦𝐲 𝐣𝐚𝐝𝐞.” ☆☆╮
Jade City was one of my last reads in 2021 and thank the Universe for that! It was everything I was told it would be and more, simply intoxicating being in this world. If you’re a fan of Godfather type stories or just gravitate towards age old feuds paired with cut throat politics doused with some magic, the Green Bone Saga is a MUST read! The island of Kekon is ruled by two crime syndicates, the Kaul family run the No Peak Clan who are considered royalty; and its rival the Mountain Clan. These clans at one point in time operated as one in the best interest of Kekon however, after a fall out between the original leaders they separated and each claimed businesses and districts to protect. The island is rapidly changing and attracting attention from foreigners due to being the only site of Jade production. Jade, the green magical gems that grant superhuman abilities to those with the right training and heritage is HIGHLY coveted and fiercely protected. The Kaul family is of the mind that Jade needs to stay within Kekon since it’s not only dangerous in the wrong untrained hands but also the core of their culture. Kungfu is taught in the academy that churns out street soldiers with each of the clans has their own school with competitive training. To be trained in Kung Fu and placed as first a “Finger” who can rank up to a “Fist” working for the “The Horn” is an honor and aspiration for many young men. Jade distribution is carefully monitored with knowledge that there is a black market set on making it accessible to the outside world. The Mountain and its “Pillar” who is their leader, is of the mind that Jade is already being illegally sold so why not make it so they sell and control its distribution for the good of Kekon. We have two Pillars from opposing clans with differing views on the future of their island. A peace treaty of sorts is in place at the start of this story however greed and a lust for power soon ends that treaty and fills the streets with blood.

The Kaul family legit came across as all too real, they were fleshed out to the point it felt as if you were at their dinner table about to throw down! There’s a lot to take in with regards to family history and old alliances. The Kaul’s Pillar is the Grandfather who is now experiencing the start of Dementia and is transitioned out of his role. His grandchildren Lan (next Pillar), Hilo (The Horn), and Shae (sister who left Kekon in search of her purpose outside of the family) are the next generation of leaders who are learning the ropes and trying their best to fill some very big shoes. This of course means that they’re bound to disagree and bump heads and I absolutely LOVE books featuring sibling dynamics! Shae & Hilo who are already multi-faceted characters deliver when it comes to showing the good, bad, and ugly of sibling relationships. This is the type of Urban Fantasy I eat up, where the author does such a stellar job at vividly painting you a picture of what it feels like to walk down the street in their city that all the work is done for your imagination. There are some scenes that just stick out in my mind and one of them is definitely Shae’s return cause it was so bad a** and feminist AF! she is the wild card in the deck and I couldn’t get enough. Only one word comes to mind when I hear Hilo’s name and that is LOYALTY! now I don’t know if that changes later on but at the moment he is one of my favorite characters. Also, it takes a real brave one to kill off your favorites and Fonda Lee has now joined the ranks of such authors. I am proceeding with caution as I ready up to start Jade War *wish me luck*


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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: Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Roa

Title: Girls Burn Brighter

Author: Shobha Roa

Pub. Date: March 6th 2018

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Format: Audiobook

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Pages: 309 pages/11 hours & 38 minutes

 

 

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON | LIBROFM

Girls Burn Brighter is a story about friendship and the resilience many girls/women have to find within when faced with trauma and tragedy. We follow two girls Poornima and Savitha who are living in India, they start off walking very different paths but soon end up down the same road. After the loss of Poornima’s mother, her father hires Savitha to work in his Sari looms. They instantly strike up a friendship with Savitha bringing much joy to Poornima who is dreading the day her marriage is arranged. Savita is a positive soul who always sees the brighter side of every situation, her smile alone is contagious and often is exactly what Poornima needs. One night, tragedy comes for Savitha and it robs her of the light she carries within. Traumatized by what has happened to her, she flees their village in the middle of the night. Poornima is devastated by the disappearance of her friend and knows something terrible had to have happened. Poornima decides she’s going to go after her friend and the story switches to multi-pov as we follow each of the girls journey in America. This story tackles human trafficking and violence many young girls and women face, it is not an easy read. It is raw and violent, all the while communicating to the reader the sense of hope and fight these girls have to find their way back to one another again. 

CW: Human trafficking, domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, violence, mutilation, disfigurement, abuse

I was not prepared for this story and yet I could not stop listening and hoping that it would all end on a good note for Savitha and Poornima. The truth however is more painful and tragic, not many escape human trafficking and if they do there are scars to carry. The violence they experience in India and then later in America all the while pushing on was heartbreaking. Watching the girls tuck away their traumas in order to find answers from the men who held them captive was sobering. They couldn’t stop and process the constant violations against their bodies because that meant never getting out. They used every tool at their disposal to outsmart and maneuver their way forward in hopes of seeing each-other again. This isn’t the type of story that can ever truly have a happy ending and does feel very heavy while reading, the author handled these tough themes in a thought provoking way. A lot of the scenes depicted are violent and sobering because it’s the stark reality many face in our real world. The character development is strong with each of their voices and personalities coming through in a very distinct way. My eyes are peeled for anything Shobha Roa writes next. 


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Spoiler Free Review: Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Title: Iron Widow

Author: Xiran Jay Zhao

Pub. Date: September 21st 2021

Genre: YA Sci-Fi

Format: eARC

Publisher: Penguin Teen

Pages: 400 pages

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*•.¸♡ ᴍᴀʏʙᴇ, ɪғ ᴛʜɪɴɢs ᴡᴇʀᴇ ᴅɪғғᴇʀᴇɴᴛ, ɪ ᴄᴏᴜʟᴅ ɢᴇᴛ ᴜsᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ ᴛʜɪs. ʙᴇɪɴɢ ᴄʀᴀᴅʟᴇᴅ ɪɴ ʜɪs ᴡᴀʀᴍᴛʜ ᴀɴᴅ ʟɪɢʜᴛ. ʙᴇɪɴɢ ᴄʜᴇʀɪsʜᴇᴅ. ʙᴇɪɴɢ ʟᴏᴠᴇᴅ. ʙᴜᴛ ɪ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ɴᴏ ғᴀɪᴛʜ ɪɴ ʟᴏᴠᴇ. ʟᴏᴠᴇ ᴄᴀɴɴᴏᴛ sᴀᴠᴇ ᴍᴇ. ɪ ᴄʜᴏᴏsᴇ ᴠᴇɴɢᴇᴀɴᴄᴇ. ♡¸.•*

This turned out to be the Feminist AF Sci-Fi story I needed to reignite my craving for SFF as a whole! It also made one thing very clear and that’s that I enjoy a good revenge plot especially when it’s executed by a female MC who feels she has nothing to lose. Zetian has been groomed from birth to accept her role in society as the weaker gender, her sole purpose if enlisted to fight in the war against the Hunduns (evil robots) is to serve as sort of an amplifier/conductor of Qi (spirit pressure) for the males. Accurately pitched as Red Rising meets Pacific Rim, in this world we have our main characters fighting in giant Chrysalis robots against the Hunduns over the wall. A Chrysalis is controlled by a male pilot and his female “Concubine.” While in battle, their bodies remain dormant in the husks of the Chrysalis while they battle using spirit pressure. Many times, the males thoughts & feelings will overwhelm his concubine and kill her. This is understood and accepted by all, until Zetian comes along with a mission to avenge her sisters death. What begins as a plot for revenge against one pilot turns into a much greater mission to strike against the patriarchy and question a system designed to keep women subservient and/or dead.

CW: Death of a loved one, domestic violence, murder, attempted rape, alcohol abuse, suicidal thoughts, misogyny, war themes, descriptions of forced foot binding, and organ removal

This book was hella quotable with social commentary delivering truths on the patriarchy and I absolutely loved it! My rating is a 4.5 only because the finale didn’t match up with the level of climax built up, it felt just a smidge rushed towards the very end.  This still wasn’t enough to take away from the story, I found myself fully invested in the characters and overall world building. I’m not yet sure if I’d consider Zetian an unlikeable character, she harbors a ton of anger which I found justified given the crummy deck of cards girls are dealt from birth. We see her experience emotional and verbal abuse from her father as well as the physical pains of having her feet bound at the age of five. Zetian is always in a state of pain and in many ways she uses that as fuel to power through her quest for revenge. From the start when we meet her she makes it clear that she will not consider anyones life (including/especially family) who at some point treated her own life as dispensable. Zetian’s hate/love relationship with Li Shimin was well developed, I honestly felt at some points that they’d never get on the same page. I enjoyed seeing Zetian come to certain realizations with regards to the world they live in and the whole Pilot/Concubine set-up. There were some awesome discoveries at the end that really set-up for the next book in this series. This is a fast action packed Sci-Fi with bits of romance sprinkled throughout haha! it’s def more plot heavy. Our main characters are all queer, the Polyamorous relationship that developed was *Chefs Kiss*! it legit was the perfect balance of sweet and rough around the edges. I have some theories as to where the story will go next and hope to the Book Gods that at the very least we get a cover for the follow-up early in 2022 *fingers crossed*


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