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

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☆☆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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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

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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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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

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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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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

 

 

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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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Spoiler Free Review: Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson

Title: Vespertine

Author: Margaret Rogerson

Pub. Date: October 5th 2021

Genre: YA Fantasy

Format: eARC

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Pages: 400pages

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

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We follow Artemesia, a gray sister at a convent who prepares the bodies of the dead to enter the spirit world. She prefers to fly under the radar and have minimal contact with others since doing so often leads to anxiety. Artmesia is walking the path to one day becoming a nun when her convent comes under attack by possessed soldiers forever changing her life course. Within the convent there are Nuns who can wield relics which harness spirits, all know of one powerful Relic that is kept under guard. During the invasion, Artemesia discovers the spirit that is attached to this relic better known as a Revenant. The Revenant is a very powerful being who threatens to possess Artemesia the minute she awakens it. From the minute the Revenant makes it appearance we get the sense it truly hates all Nuns and then the sarcasm begins and it’s made abundantly clear. The dialogue alone provided some of the best on page entertainment I’ve come across. The author best describes this book as a Medieval Venom starring a Nun and a ghost and I think that’s on point for accuracy👌🏽 being in Artemesia’s head & hearing the exchanges with the Revenant had me in fits laughing out loud. The Revenant doesn’t let up on the fact that it LOATHES Nuns and makes sure Artemesia knows this while also threatening to take over (possess) if it pleases. Our main character is someone who struggles with mental health tied to a tragic event in her childhood. She doesn’t do well around people in general but gets used to interacting with the Revenant and knows she needs its help to get answers.

This may come across as an unpopular opinion but having read Sorcery of Thorns (my review) and now Vespertine, I’m of the mind that this book is the stronger of the two with regards to character development. That being said, the plot towards the end of this book threw me off a bit and that’s why I docked it. Not sure if it was a me thing but I felt I lost sight of it and had to backtrack.
Otherwise, it was so damn good! Funny, witty, epic battle scenes and tragic at times. The world building was also very intriguing with Rogerson breaking down how certain spirits are manifested. Whether it was a violent death on a battlefield or the death of a child, the way a person loses their life determines the spirit left behind. There are religious themes explored along with possession that may or may not be to your liking. Personally, I don’t gravitate towards books with religious themes however the dialogue and witty banter between Artemisia and the Revenant all throughout had me giggling more times than I could count. I’m looking forward to the next book in this world seeing as the author introduces others spirits that are on the same level of power as the Revenant and would spell trouble if they were to gain their freedom. I’m curious to know whether the audiobook narrator nailed the performance of the Revenant and will most likely re-read in this format before the next book is released. 


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Spoiler Free Review: The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova

Title: The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina

Author: Zoraida Cordova

Pub. Date: September 7th 2021

Genre: YA Fantasy/Magical Realism

Format: Hardcover BOTM

Publisher: Atria Books

Pages: 336 pages

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The Montoya family is used to the oddities that come with having Orquidea Divina for a Matriarch. They’ve stopped asking if the fantastical stories she told them were true…how she managed to make a barren land fruitful? or how the pantry never seems to run low? One by one her grown adult children and grandchildren get summoned to their childhood home in Four Rivers for what appears to be her funeral. Orquidea wishes to dine with them and give them their inheritance however when they arrive, they find she has already begun her transformation. She is literally transforming into a large tree with roots when her family arrives with a lot of questions and frustrations. They want answers but Orquidea has never been a woman of many words and will make them all work for the answers they seek. She gives Marimar, Rey and Tatinelly’s small child Rhiannon special gifts that they don’t quite understand. In order to get answers they need to dig deep into Orquideas past which means they must travel to Ecuador. It’s through this journey that they get to know Orquidea, a woman that didn’t speak much and came across as cold but was filled with magic and mystery.

╰☆☆ “тнє ѕριяιтѕ αтє αи∂ αтє. тнє ℓινιиg нυяяιє∂ тσ тєℓℓ тнєιя ѕтσяιєѕ, тнєιя α¢¢σмρℓιѕнмєитѕ, тнєιя ωιиѕ, тнєιя ρяσgєиу. мαятιи ναиιѕнє∂ fσя α мσмєит, тнєи яєтυяиє∂ αи∂ тнє ѕσυи∂ѕ σf σяqυί∂єαѕ fανσяιтє ѕσиgѕ fιℓℓє∂ тнє нσυѕє, ωнι¢н нα∂ вєєи ємρту αи∂ ѕιℓєит fσя тσσ ℓσиg” ☆☆╮

This story was EVERYTHING and so much more than what I thought we were going to get! I’ve always loved Magical Realism (I’m lookin’ at you Anna Marie-McLemore) and know that some readers have a hard time suspending their disbelief with this style of writing, however here is a story that makes it easy for you. Each of her descendants ALSO have a hard time digesting what they’re seeing but they kinda have to because they’re being hunted and killed off one by one. Cordova takes you by the hand as you travel to Ecuador with this tale of roots, the ties that bind us, and finding where you belong. I wanted to know so badly what transpired in Orquedias past to make her flee the country she was born in. Other than The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, I’m not really a fan of circus themed settings so I was a bit hesitant to learn from early readers that we’d be visiting one in this story. Atmospheric and tantalizing, my eyes couldn’t absorb it all in fast enough and those last 100 pages flew right by! This was beautifully written and heartfelt, really no surprise to me when the tears started flowing and the page tabs were growing. This is hands down a 6 star read and going on my favorites list for 2021! ❤ 


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Spoiler Free Review: Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno Garcia

Title: Certain Dark Things

Author: Silvia Moreno Garcia

Pub. Date: September 7th 2021

Genre: Paranormal/Horror Noir

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Tor

Pages: 272 pages

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Originally published in 2016, Certain Dark Things was given a new cover and re-released last month. There’s been a recent resurgence of Vampires across all media and I for one was excited to see a story set in a Dystopian Mexico City. We meet Atl who is a descendant of Aztec blood drinkers as she’s on the run from rival vampires. She meets Domingo, a young garbage collector who has been living in the city streets for years. He is instantly mesmerized by her beauty and willing to let her feed off him to survive. Atl never hides her true nature and makes sure Domingo knows what he’s getting himself into. What she doesn’t count on is actually getting attached to Domingo and developing feelings for him. This world is gritty and violent, the vampires all self preserve by any means necessary while living alongside mortals. This is a short quick read that is very atmospheric and will please readers who enjoy neo-noir. Our main character is on the run all throughout this story with other vampires, criminals and cops on her trail. The body count is high with very little focus on the romance and an emphasis on the chase itself. If you happen to be a fan of animal companions, Atl has a genetically modified dog who is super overprotective of Atl and is described as being large in size with tattoos on the side of its face. All in all giving Atl a bad a** look and swag!

I’ve honestly enjoyed seeing the growth in writing while reading Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s books, each story speaks to the talent and unwillingness by this author to be boxed into any one specific genre. This story was a 3.5 star read for me which is still a solid rating, it’s just not my favorite of what I’ve read so far. I’ve heard it said that noir fic is known to focus more on the setting and that’s definitely the case here. The plot is very straight forward (more telling/less showing) which I didn’t mind but personally would’ve loved to see a little more world building to compensate. I would’ve gladly read a 400 page book set in this world which already had me invested in its characters. I’ve been making way through all of SMG’s book, Certain Dark Things (being one of her earlier works) has left me in awe of how much growth we get to see in each of the books that follow. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a highly underrated author who will continue to break genre barriers! the one thing I can always count on is that I never know what to expect from this author but it’s guaranteed to be a solid read. 


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Spoiler Free Review: The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

Title: The Love Hypothesis

Author:Ali Hazelwood

Pub. Date: September 14th 2021

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Format: Physical Book

Publisher: Berkley Books

Pages: 384 pages

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Olive is a third year PHD candidate focused on science and not quite sure if she’s interested in love. In fact she’s questioning everything about how she views attraction, sex, and romance. Olive’s best friend Anh on the other hand is a romantic at heart and it just so happens that she has amazing chemistry with Jeremy who is Olives ex. She feels terrible for having these feelings and decides to keep them hidden but everyone in their friend circle can see they’re perfect for one another. Olive truly didn’t have any deep emotions for Jeremy but convincing Anh that she’s more than OK with them dating is proving to be challenging. The only way would be if she can show Anh that she’s since moved on into a new relationship. The idea of fake dating someone doesn’t have much time to brew in her mind before she finds herself ambush kissing Professor Adam Carlsen. The professor known to break the hearts of budding scientists leaving them in tears and rethinking their entire career paths. What’s even more surprising is that the forever grumpy Adam surprises her by agreeing to an arrangement that would help them both.
🔬🧪💞
*•.¸♡ ωнαт ι ℓσνє∂ ♡¸.•*
🧪Women in STEM
🔬Queer and diverse characters
🧪Positive healthy female friendships
🔬Academic settings
🧪Forced proximity situations that’ll have you blushing alongside our MC
🔬Flirting & banter *Chefs Kiss*

I don’t think I ever really considered the Fake Dating Trope to be one that I’d be totally into but it absolutely is now! I lost count of the times I found myself blushing and smiling from second hand embarrassment. We also get the Grumpy/Sunshine Trope which I’ve personally always enjoyed. Does it help that as soon as I heard this story is Kyloren Fanfic inspired, that I immediately envisioned Adam Driver as the lead male interest? ABSOLUTELY! he perfectly fits the description and mannerisms. I’ll admit I wasn’t too keen on the premise of a best friend falling for the other friends ex however, I felt Olive’s feelings on the whole thing were very well explored. She has a moment of introspection that even though it wasn’t spelled out on the page, I understood it to be that Olive may be Asexual. I appreciated reading a character’s POV who experiences love and sexual attraction differently than what we’re used to seeing in books.

I also LOVED how well balanced this read was with regards to the science in an academic setting and the actual romance. There was an emphasis on highlighting the many hurdles women in STEM go up against in a field where their counterparts are predominantly Caucasian males. Olive’s BFF Anh is a Vietnamese PHD Candidate who is very driven to creating more resources for BIPOC women in STEM. These themes were woven in organically which I feel is probably because the author themselves is a Neuroscientist with plenty of time in an academic setting. There’s honestly so much to love here! last but not least…The STEAM factor was so satisfying! It is well deserving of my 6 star rating simply because I am STILL thinking of these characters and the *Chefs Kiss* flirting that took place. 


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

Title: She Who Became the Sun

Author: Shelley Parker-Chan

Pub. Date: July 20th 2021

Genre: Fantasy/Queer

Format: eGalley

Publisher: TOR Books

Pages: 416 pages

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

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

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

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


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