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

39085455Title: The Taking of Jake Livingston

Author: Ryan Douglass

Pub. Date: July 13th 2021

Genre: YA Horror/Queer

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Putnam

Pages: 308 pages

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

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

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


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June 2021 Reading Wrap-Up

Who else is falling short of TBR goals simply because you’re having one HOT person summer?!?! Well June threw a wrench in my reading goals in the best of ways so there’s no complaining here but I am back on track with my July Possibility Pile. I only read 4 books in June but they were quality reads (one of them is a bit iffy as the days go by lol) I traveled with and enjoyed. I haven’t really been in the Fantasy reading mood lately, leaning instead into Romance & Contemporary Fiction. That being said (Ha!), this weekend during my post work-out soak I started She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan (The Radiant Emperor #1) & already I’m MIND BLOWN (hits shelves 7/20/21) by the vivid imagery and the main character’s self awareness. Drop some love down below in the comment box with what you’re currently reading/watching/listening to ❤ ❤ ❤

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Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto – ✨3.5 𝓢𝓽𝓪𝓻𝓼✨If you can manage to suspend all disbelief, Dial A for Aunties will take you on a WILD hilarious ride! I listened to the audiobook on Librofm and I’m so glad I did, the narrator did such a phenomenal job of making this family feel real. We follow Meddelin Chan who goes on a blind date & somehow accidentally ends up killing her date. When she calls her mom freaking out, her mom calls in the Aunties who quickly come to help cover up & hide the body. Meddelin and her family all are in the family business of weddings & they end up concealing the body on the island where the wedding is taking place. This is a romantic comedy that is laugh out loud & over the top! What I loved? the beautiful descriptions of Chinese-Indonesian culture specifically wedding traditions. Also, the amazing support this family offers one another to ensure they’re all successful in their family business. Lastly, the AUNTIES!!! their in-fightings had me chuckling and shaking my head on more than one occasion. Overall a good time!

Survive the Night by Riley Sager – ✨3 𝓢𝓽𝓪𝓻𝓼✨ Unlike many of my friends who’ve read all of Sager’s backlist, this is only my second read by this author. It’s undeniably a page turner with a unreliable narrator. It has a very dreamlike feel that makes you wonder if the narrator really is hallucinating. I’ve changed my rating several times since reading it & not for the better, it sits at 3 stars because I couldn’t detach from it and ended up binge reading. Would you get in a car with a perfect stranger all the while knowing a campus killer is on the loose? Our MC Charlie is trying to leave campus for good after the murder of her roommate. A chance meeting at the campus ride board leads her to Josh Baxter. Josh who is on his way to care for his sick father and offers Charlie a ride. Set mostly in the car on dark roads, this story will have you flipping pages into the night. Charlie is an unreliable narrator & things get interesting when she begins to think she’s in the car with her roommates killer. It’s a game of cat and mouse that plays throughout the night and you really start to fear for Charlie. The problem is, some pieces don’t fit no matter how you try to make them and doing so will make the writing seem forced…that’s how I felt about the way all was wrapped up.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid – (My Review) ✨4 𝓢𝓽𝓪𝓻𝓼✨This book hit on a more personal level for me, it didn’t dethrone TJR’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo but it does hold a special place in my heart. Overall, this is a story of childhood/sibling trauma and breaking free from the toxic cycles as adults. I love books that remind us how perfectly imperfect we can be, especially when you’re a parent because so often that role is one to look up to. When you fall from that pedestal you’ve been placed on, how you get back up or don’t…can possibly affect your children later on down the road. Nina (the oldest) in some ways was repeating relationship patterns her mother got caught up in. This story is told in past & present tense, in the past we follow Mick Riva and his wife as they struggle through infidelity and drug/alcohol abuse. In the present, it’s all about the Riva kids who are famous because of their father and are hosting their yearly party. Over the course of 24 hours we see them deal with their personal relationships & demons. I docked it one star because of the climax and how much I didn’t really care for it…that is to say, the party itself was just not it for me. it only detracted from what I really cared about and that is the characters themselves. For the most part we see Nina’s character development and then it’s surface level with the other siblings. I’m hoping we get a book following Kit who intrigued me so much! *fingers crossed*

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé – (My Review) ✨5 𝓢𝓽𝓪𝓻𝓼✨Save the best for last! One of the better debuts I’ve read this year, I honestly couldn’t put it down! This year has been really hard for me to find YA I enjoy which has me being way more selective with what I pick up. Ace of Spades had a little of Gossip Girl mixed with Jordan Peele’s Get Out mixed with Alyssa Cole’s When No One is Watching, check out my recent review in the link above.

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*Confession* I binged all 5 seasons of Workin’ Moms in 48 hours SMH #NOREGRETS I FELT SEEN! LMAO! The title really does say it all, we follow these four ladies as they juggle life with being modern career women. They all have such different approaches that it makes for a very unlikely group of friends but also, I think that’s what makes it work. Everything from marriage to raising tweens and having healthy supportive female friendships is explored. I had a GREAT time, laughed a whole lot and also shed some tears along the way. Come on season 6! 

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PIXAR! why do you always leave me ballin’ my eyes out?!?! Luca and Alberto’s friendship really is top tier, I was smitten with their adventures on land. We follow these two sea monsters as they explore a fishing village that doesn’t like and actually hunts sea monsters for cash rewards. This is a story of acceptance and being judged by those who fear what you are. Disney has received some backlash for Queer baiting as many (including myself) wondered if there was more to Luca & Alberto. Regardless of what was intended, I found their human connection to be beautiful and a story that everyone can appreciate.


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

55518780Title: Ace Of Spades

Author:Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Pub. Date: June 1st 2021

Genre: YA Contemporary/Queer

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Harper/Usborne

Pages: 480 pages

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

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

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

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

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


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Spoiler Free Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

55404546Title: Malibu Rising

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Pub. Date: June 1st 2021

Genre: Adult/Historical Fiction

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Pages: 384 pages

 

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

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

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

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


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June 2021 Anticipated New Releases

June has seen some dope titles drop and we still have two more weeks of releases to go! I’m currently in the middle of Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké Íyímídé, a June release that you will absolutely want to pick up…I’m not kidding, it’s a compulsive read that is exactly as is described. Get Out meets Gossip Girl and if you were a fan of Alyssa Cole’s When No One is Watching, I’d say go for it! next up on my Possibility Pile, is an eGalley of Survive the Night by Riley Sager that I’m hoping makes me a fan of this beloved author *fingers crossed*

Have you read any of these books? any I left out? Drop them down below in the comments Luvs! ❤

YOUNG ADULT

FIRE WITH FIRE BY DESTINY SORIA“Dani and Eden Rivera were both born to kill dragons, but the sisters couldn’t be more different. For Dani, dragon slaying takes a back seat to normal high school life, while Eden prioritizes training above everything else. Yet they both agree on one thing: it’s kill or be killed where dragons are concerned.” 6/8

THE WOLF AND THE WOODSMAN BY AVA REID“In the vein of Naomi Novik’s New York Times bestseller Spinning Silver and Katherine Arden’s national bestseller The Bear and the Nightingale, this unforgettable debut— inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology—follows a young pagan woman with hidden powers and a one-eyed captain of the Woodsmen as they form an unlikely alliance to thwart a tyrant.” 6/8

THE NATURE OF WITCHES BY RACHEL GRIFFIN“For centuries, witches have maintained the climate, their power from the sun peaking in the season of their birth. But now their control is faltering as the atmosphere becomes more erratic. All hope lies with Clara, an Everwitch whose rare magic is tied to every season.” 6/1

MY CONTRARY MARY BY CYNTHIA HAND, BRODI ASHTON, JODI MEADOWS -Aaaaaand they’re BACK! “Welcome to Renaissance France, a place of poison and plots, of beauties and beasts, of mice and . . . queens? Mary is the queen of Scotland and the jewel of the French court. Except when she’s a mouse. Yes, reader, Mary is an Eðian (shapeshifter) in a kingdom where Verities rule. It’s a secret that could cost her a head—or a tail.” 6/22

ACE OF SPADES BY FARIDAH ÀBíKÉ ÍYÍMÍDÉ“An incendiary and utterly compelling thriller with a shocking twist that delves deep into the heart of institutionalized racism, from an exceptional new YA voice. Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students’ dark secrets to light. ” 6/10

GEARBREAKERS BY ZOE HANA MIKUTA“Two girls on opposite sides of a war discover they’re fighting for a common purpose–and falling for each other–in Zoe Hana Mikuta’s high-octane debut Gearbreakers, perfect for fans of Pacific Rim, Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Saga, and Marie Lu’s Legend series.” 6/29

DARLING BY K. ANCRUM “A teen girl finds herself lost on a dangerous adventure in this YA thriller by the acclaimed author of The Wicker King and The Weight of the Stars—reimagining Peter Pan for today’s world.” 6/22

THE WITCH KING BY H.E. EDGMON“To save a fae kingdom, a trans witch must face his traumatic past and the royal fiancé he left behind. This debut YA fantasy will leave you spellbound.” 6/1

BLACKOUT  (ANTHOLOGY) “Six critically acclaimed, bestselling, and award-winning authors bring the glowing warmth and electricity of Black teen love to this interlinked novel of charming, hilarious, and heartwarming stories that shine a bright light through the dark.” 6/22

BLOOD LIKE MAGIC BY LISELLE SAMBURY – “A rich, dark urban fantasy debut following a teen witch who is given a horrifying task: sacrificing her first love to save her family’s magic. The problem is, she’s never been in love—she’ll have to find the perfect guy before she can kill him.” 6/15

ADULT FICTION

MALIBU RISING – (RTC 4 stars) Malibu: August 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over–especially as the offspring of the legendary singer Mick Riva.” 6/1. 

THE MAIDENS BY ALEX MICHAELIDES“Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.” 6/15

SURVIVE THE NIGHT BY RILEY SAGER“It’s November 1991. George H. W. Bush is in the White House, Nirvana’s in the tape deck, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.” 6/29

THE CHOSEN AND THE BEAUTIFUL BY NGHI VOImmigrant. Socialite. Magician. Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society—she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her. But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how. Nghi Vo’s debut novel The Chosen and the Beautiful reinvents this classic of the American canon as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess, and introduces a major new literary voice. 6/1

DEAD DEAD GIRLS BY NEHESA AFIA“The start of an exciting new historical mystery series set in 1920s Harlem featuring Louise Lloyd, a young black woman caught up in a series of murders way too close to home…Harlem, 1926. Young black girls like Louise Lloyd are ending up dead. Following a harrowing kidnapping ordeal when she was in her teens, Louise is doing everything she can to maintain a normal life. She’s succeeding, too. She spends her days working at Maggie’s Café and her nights at the Zodiac, Manhattan’s hottest speakeasy. Louise’s friends might say she’s running from her past and the notoriety that still stalks her, but don’t tell her that.” 6/1

ADULT ROMANCE

TRYST SIX VENOM BY PENELOPE DOUGLAS(F/F BULLY NEW ADULT ROMANCE) “Marymount girls are good girls. We’re chaste, we’re untouched, and even if we weren’t, no one would know, because we keep our mouths shut.
Not that I have anything to share anyway. I never let guys go too far. I’m behaved. Beautiful, smart, talented, popular, my skirt’s always pressed, and I never have a hair out of place. I own the hallways, walking tall on Monday and dropping to my knees like the good Catholic girl I am on Sunday. That’s me. Always in control. Or so they think. The truth is that it’s easy for me to resist them, because what I truly want, they can never be. Something soft and smooth. Someone dangerous and wild.” 6/3

REEL BY KENNEDY RYAN – 
Award-Winning Wall Street Journal Bestselling author Kennedy Ryan launches a brand new series with a Hollywood tale of wild ambition, artistic obsession, and unrelenting love.
One moment in the spotlight. For months I stood by, an understudy waiting in the wings, preparing for my time to shine.
I never imagined he would watch in the audience that night.
Canon Holt.
Famous film director.
Fascinating. Talented. Fine.
Before I could catch my breath, everything changed.
I went from backstage Broadway to center stage Hollywood.
From being unknown, to my name, Neevah Saint, on everyone’s lips.
Canon casts me in a star-studded Harlem Renaissance biopic, catapulting me into another stratosphere. But stars shine brightest in the dead of night.
Forbidden attraction, scandal and circumstances beyond my control jeopardize my dream. Could this one shot—the role of a lifetime, the love of a lifetime—cost me everything?” 6/8

CLAIMED BY J.R. WARDA heart-pounding new series set in the Black Dagger Brotherhood world, with a scientist fighting to save the timber wolves—and getting caught in a deadly trap herself…

Lydia Susi is passionate about protecting wolves in their natural habitat. When a hotel chain develops a tract of land next to the preserve, Lydia is one of the most vocal opponents of the project—and becomes a target.” 6/27

NEON GODS BY KATEE ROBERT“He was supposed to be a myth. But from the moment I crossed the River Styx and fell under his dark spell… he was, quite simply, mine. Society darling Persephone Dimitriou plans to flee the ultra-modern city of Olympus and start over far from the backstabbing politics of the Thirteen Houses. But all that’s ripped away when her mother ambushes her with an engagement to Zeus, the dangerous power behind their glittering city’s dark facade.” 6/1

THE QUEER PRINCIPLES OF KIT WEBB BY KAT SEBASTIAN“Critically acclaimed author Cat Sebastian makes her trade paperback debut in a stunning historical romance about a reluctantly reformed highwayman and the aristocrat who threatens to steal his heart. Kit Webb has left his stand-and-deliver days behind him. But dreary days at his coffee shop have begun to make him pine for the heady rush of thievery. When a handsome yet arrogant aristocrat storms into his shop, Kit quickly realizes he may be unable to deny whatever this highborn man desires.” 6/8


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May Wrap-Up & Book Haul…

Hola Hola Book Lovers! May was somewhat of a return to normalcy month for me after a rocky couple of months caused by health concerns. I kept my reading light (with the exception of one book that I mentally prepared for; The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore) and instead leaned more towards small towns both on Netflix and in real life. Road trips with the windows down paired with good music were my lifeline. New York City put on its best Spring dress after a long period of hibernation and like many others, I welcomed it with arms wide open (safely of course). Mother’s Day was SUPER special thanks to two tiny humans and my boyfriend who really marked the day with a variety of heartfelt gestures and gifts. Winter clothes officially went in drawers and out came my Spring/Summer dresses, shorts, skirts and sandals. My fridge is stocked with fruits for all your fruit bowl/smoothie/juicing needs. Last but not least, I went from drinking my Cafe Bustelo to Starbucks Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew cause ya girl is too hot to be drinking hot coffee. Summer is almost here Luvs!!!

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The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren (my review) -*4 Stars* The Romantic Comedy that had me once again pulling out all of my unread Christina Lauren books with plans to read this summer. Hate to love (sort of) romance, dating apps, BFF who writes the MC into her Romance novels, and super supportive grandparents. I smiled more times than I could count whenever Jess & Fizzy sat at the cafe talking about the odds of GeneticAlly truly finding their soulmate. This is one I’d watch a movie adaptation of in a heartbeat!  

 The Mirror Season by Anna Marie-McLemore – *5 Stars* I have yet to write my review and have no real promises to make. This was the hardest read I’ve picked up from one of my all time favorite YA authors. The subject matter being rape that is detailed on the page is utterly heartbreaking. To then read the afterward and see that it’s based on real life events the author and a friend lived through was devestating. This was still playing out in court in an open case at the time of publication and truly speaks to the strength of the author to bring awareness to something that many teens have experienced. I fully advise looking into content warnings. 

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala – *4 Stars* My very 1st cozy mystery and it did NOT dissapoint! I was excited to see the author’s cover reveal of the sequel (Homicide and Halo-Halo) that’ll be releasing in February 2022. Arsenic and Adobo was a fun murder mystery set in a small town, following a Filipino MC who is trying to find her path after a rough break-up. She returns home where her many aunties descend and begin to apply some pressure with a lot of love. Fun & addictive!

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho (my review) -*3.5 Stars* We follow 23 year old Jessamyn who has left the states with her parents to return to Malaysia and find her footing. Jess is a stressed out Zillenial Queer trying to maintain a long distance relationship with her girlfriend who no one in her family knows about. That is why when she begins to hear voices she thinks it’s a byproduct of those stressors and NOT the ghost of her Ah Ma who she never met. Ah Ma is her grandmother who when alive, was a Medium for a quiet and mysterious spirit called Black Water Sister. Ah Ma needs Jessamyn’s help in settling a score on behalf of this God or risk her wrath. Dark but also well balanced with snark and humor between Jessamyn and her Ah Ma. I’d also advise looking into content warnings.

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston (my review) – *6 EPIC STARS* Save the best for last amiright?!? Truly wasn’t expecting this since I admittedly fell into the unpopular opinion of not really loving Red, White, and Royal Blue. I ADORED this book to pieces and the fact that it dropped on June 1st, the first day of Pride month is 100% apropos! If I start writing I’ll never stop so instead I ask that you click on my review link so that you can read my GUSH review on the Q train. That is all. 

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ARIADNE | THE HUNTING WIVES | LAST SUMMER AT THE GOLDEN HOTEL | REALM BREAKER | ILLUSIONARY | THE PRISON HEALER | SON OF THE STORM | BLACK WATER SISTER | THE INHERITANCE OF ORQUÍDEA DIVINA (ARC)

It was a heavy on the Fantasy type of haul with the exception of my Book of The Month picks. Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard is very special being that it is the first Bookish Mother’s Day gift I received from my little human, she went straight towards the sword on the cover which made me so proud haha! Then I was sent a ARC copy of The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina from Atria Books (very thankful), Zoraida Cordova is a favorite author of mine so this was an exciting package to open. I LOVE the Fairyloot edition of The Prison Healer with its beautiful purple sprayed edges *heart eyes* Son of the Storm was an impulse buy while on a road trip, book store sighting always is a good reason to pull over. My review for Black Water Sister is linked up above in the Wrap-Up.

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CRUELLA (IMDB)

WOW! I should’ve known once I saw Emma Stone was chosen to play Cruella that it would be a solid performance. I was not prepared for this villains backstory but it is absolutely the BEST one I believe Disney has produced! While writing this post I had to stop and hop over to Spotify to download the soundtrack which was ON POINT! as were all of the costumes Cruella dons throughout the movie. The duality of this character is so well delivered that I honestly will always see this version as THE story of how she came to be who we all know. HIGHLY reccomend for those who love a good villain rising backstory, however It may throw off some of the younger viewers who only know the 101 Dalmations version. Still! This was EPIC!

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VIRGIN RIVER (IMDB)

My go-to for whenever I need a pick me up, are books and movies/tv shows that are set in small towns with a cast of characters that feel like family. This was it! Jess over at Litnoob on Bookstagram recommended Virgin River and from the very first episode I knew I would be binge watching the first two seasons on Netflix. We follow a nurse who has just lost her husband and decides to sell her house in L.A. and relocate to a remote Northern California town. The job ad she responds to online however, isn’t quite what it claimed to be. Instead she arrives at a beat down cabin, a curmudgeon doctor/employer, and a town full of neighbors who are ALL up in one another business haha! I LOVED it! anxiously anticipating season 3 streaming in July.


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Spoiler Free Review: Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

55119872Title: Black Water Sister

Author: Zen Cho

Pub. Date: May 11th 2021

Genre: Fantasy/Queer

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Ace Books

Pages: 384 pages

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON

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

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

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

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


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Spoiler Free Review: The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren

55692620Title: The Soulmate Equation

Author: Christina Lauren

Pub. Date: May 18th 2021

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Gallery Books

Pages: 368 pages

 

GOODREADSBARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON 

 

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

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

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

The Soulmate Equation hits shelves next week Tuesday May 18th


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WWW WEDNESDAY: 3/30/2021

WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On a World of Words and to participate all you have to do is answer the three W’s listed below. Once you’ve posted your WWW, drop a link to your post in Sam’s comments <3’s!

The questions:
1. What are you currently reading?
2. What did you recently finish reading?
3. What do you think you’ll read next?

Book Lovers, Is it really only Wednesday? this is one of those weeks where there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Coincidentally it’s also the week I return to work after some rest and recovery. The icing on the cake literally is my little girl turning 10! so yea, I’ve been donning my Wonder Woman cape to make it all happen and ending my nights with either a good book or episodes of Ginny & Georgia on Netflix which I sure do hope gets a second season *fingers crossed* By the time this post goes live I’ll probably be refreshing my USPS app in hopes that my copies of Wild Women and the Blues by Denny S. Bryce AND Rule of Wolves (King of Scars #2) by Leigh Bardugo arrive sooner than later *shimmies in chair*

What is the highlight of your week? not having a great week, plans for the weekend? perhaps new releases you’re looking forward to? Drop some Luv down in the comments <3’s!

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51813582Witches steeped in gold by ciannon smart

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“This Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut about two enemy witches who must enter into a deadly alliance to take down a common enemy has the twisted cat-and-mouse of Killing Eve with the richly imagined fantasy world of Furyborn and Ember in the Ashes” – Goodreads

I’m only a few pages into this highly anticipated Fantasy and even though I can’t really say much about my enjoyment, I will say that this style of writing is what I gel with best. I’m hoping it delivers on the character development front and that each sisters voice is distinct and well fleshed out. I’ve never read a Jamaican-inspired Fantasy and would love for this to be a new favorite, I’ll have a full review up here on the blog next week.

23766634._SY475_a court of wings and fury (a court of thorns and roses #3) by Sarah J maas

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I’m not one to read two books at a time in the same genre but the audiobooks for the ACO series are pretty hard to stay away from for too long. Feyre is in full spy mode here and has since acquired a new title, I’ll not spoil that for those who haven’t had a chance to get to this series but would like to. I also just got in the mail my new book sleeves from Illumicrate & GAAASSSSP! STUNNING! I’ll be posting photos over on Bookstagram as I make my way through the books.

 

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54304125the final revival of opal & nev by Dawnie Walton

Earlier this week I finished & 4 starred The Final Revival of Opal & Nev which hit shelves yesterday March 30th. I have a full review here I would recommend it to anyone who loved Daisy & the Jones and the Six but gets that although this shares many similarities…it stands on its own and has a whole different unique vibe. The characters will stay with you, good luck not googling them to see if they actually exist in real life *yes. yes I did* If audiobooks are your thing, I hear this has a FULL cast! I’m tempted to use my Librofm credit for a re-read. 

 

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55692620the soulmate equation by christina lauren

goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898 “Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents–who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno–Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father’s never been around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard…and lonely.” 

I’ve only ever read one other book by Christina Lauren and have checked out the synopsis to a few others with no genuine interest up until now. The premise of this single mom entering a science experiment/dating app that matches you with someone based on your DNA is super intriguing. That it so happens to be the creator of the app only doubles my interest! I’m hoping this is the book that drives me to give some of their other books a shot. I will be reading this as soon as I’m done with Witches Steeped in Gold since it is a May release and I have a Netgalley ratio to work on.


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Continue reading “WWW WEDNESDAY: 3/30/2021”

Spoiler Free Review: Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft

Title: Down Comes the Night

Author: Allison Saft

Pub. Date: March 2nd 2021

Genre:YA Fantasy/Queer

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Pages: 400 pages

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON

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

A Gothic Bi-Sexual Fantasy/Murder Mystery with a hate-to-love romance?!?! sounds too good to be true but Allison Saft truly delivered. MC Wren Southerland is orphaned at a young age and taken in by her aunt (The Queen) as a healer in the Queen’s Guard. While in the military she falls in love with Una Dryden, a career ambitious general who loves her in return but will always choose her rank and service to the Queen over Wren. There is a long lasting war between the Danubians (Wren’s People) and the Vesrians while the Cernosians remain neutral and apart from their war. The body count is rising and soldiers have begun to go missing while on guard. Una is the sole reason for which Wren continues in the military, she is ill suited for the jobs more harsh requirements when handling enemy hostages. Wren has a couple of infractions for displaying what is considered to be too much empathy.

“I need you by my side. And there Wren would stay, even if it she couldn’t always stomach what at any and all costs entailed. She cursed the empathy that flowed in her blood as surely as her healing magic did.”

Dismissed from the Queen’s Guard, Wren decides to accept a mysterious invitation from an eccentric reclusive Lord. He writes of a sick member of his staff and the urgency with which he seeks out Wren’s medical expertise in exchange for assistance with her dilemma. She arrives at his estate to find a cold and crumbling mansion, the Lord welcomes her in his study with a contract for her to sign should she accept his terms and conditions. All seems quite odd but given her predicament and desire to redeem herself with the Queen, she accepts. The identity of the patient poses a HUGE conflict of interest for her and the ultimate test of empathy. Things begin to unravel at Colwick Hall, Wren is determined to uncover the truth behind her missing comrades and exactly what role the Lord of Colwick plays in the war.

Content Warning: War themes, gore, murder, kidnapping, detailed surgical procedures

Haunting and at times disturbing, this slower paced Gothic Mystery sometimes left me cringing at the medical procedures described. In some ways it reminded me of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic which also took place in a Gothic styled mansion. In this stand-alone Fantasy there are Danubians and Vesrians who have been gifted with magic and the Cernosians who are a people without this gift. The magic system is where I would’ve like to have seen more exploration. Other than Wren who has healing magic and one other MC who has a different type of magic, we don’t really get discussion on the different types of existing magic in this world. Otherwise, I’d say this is one super atmospheric character driven story that would be perfect for the Fall/Winter seasons. I enjoyed the romance even if  many scenes were fade to black (expect a ton of sexual tension), it is still Young Adult and my guess is that it was written with that in mind.  Would I have read an adult version of this story? ABSOLUTELY! our MC Wren craves real genuine connection and affection, seeing her navigate her own feelings/emotions leaves you with a deep sense of yearning. I empathized with this character who at every turn was told to stop feeling so much and basically go against what is second nature to her. I won’t go into too much detail on her love interest(s) since I consider that to be spoilery but I was very pleased to get a complex character who was trying to atone while also acknowledging that their transgressions can’t be erased. I love who Wren ultimately ends up with simply because that person made her feel seen and appreciated those qualities that others tried to root out of her. A solid debut Book Lovers! I’ll be on the lookout for Allison Saft’s next book.


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