Spoiler Free Review: A Curse in Ash by Julie Zantopoulos

Title: A Curse in Ash

Author: Julie Zantopoulos

Pub. Date: October 5th 2021

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy/Romance

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Pages: 392 pages

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ARC received from author in exchange for an honest review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

55518780Title: Ace Of Spades

Author:Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Pub. Date: June 1st 2021

Genre: YA Contemporary/Queer

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Harper/Usborne

Pages: 480 pages

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The 411..

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

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

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

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

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


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Spoiler Free Review: Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

55119872Title: Black Water Sister

Author: Zen Cho

Pub. Date: May 11th 2021

Genre: Fantasy/Queer

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Ace Books

Pages: 384 pages

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

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

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

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


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Spoiler Free Review: Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Title: Winter Counts

Author: David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Pub. Date: August 25th 2020

Genre: Adult Fiction

Format: Audiobook

Publisher: Ecco

Pages: 336pages/8 hours & 17 minutes

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“What I’d discovered was that sadness is like an abandoned car left out in a field for good—it changes a little over the years, but doesn’t ever disappear. You may forget about it for a while, but it’s still there, rusting away, until you notice it again.” – Winter Counts

Set on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, we follow Virgil Wounded Horse a local enforcer as he delivers justice. The American legal system and the tribal council can’t be relied upon for cases of rape, petty drugs, kidnapping or domestic violence. Virgil makes a living from hunting down and then beating up criminals who otherwise would go by unscathed. He’s a recovered alcoholic with a failed relationship who is the guardian of his sisters 14 year old son. He’s fair with his nephew and expects that like most teenagers, he will be tempted to experiment with recreational drugs. He has what he thinks is a fairly open line of communication with him and tries to steer him to staying focused on school. When Virgil catches wind of drug cartels making their presence known to the youth of the reservation, he is offered a job by a local politician to deliver some justice. It isn’t until his own nephew gets caught in the middle of these drug wars that Virgil begins to seek answers to a situation that just doesn’t seem right. There’s an influx of pills and heroine making their way onto the Reservation which finally calls the attention of the Feds. Cases of this magnitude typically do because there’s a vested interest. Virgil sees himself having to turn to an unlikely source for guidance, the very Lakota traditions and spiritual beliefs he so adamantly has turned his back on.

If you’re thinking of listening to the audiobook I absolutly recommend it, the narrator does an excellent job with Virgil. This is a medium paced read that is marketed as a thriller however, I didn’t really see it as such. This reads more like Crime Fiction that covers a lot of the real life issues plaguing Native American reservations. It’s a dark and heavy read with tons of content warnings that I’ll try to cover down below. I found myself unable to walk away from this story for too long and ended up finishing it in just about one sitting. Part of the reason I’ll admit is my interest in the issues many Native American’s are currently experiencing. This has now led me to add a few books to my Indigenous TBR for this year. The lack of social justice this book brings puts a giant spotlight on and brings to the forefront is something I can appreciate. This won’t be the book you’ll find any likable characters in since they’ve pretty much all taken a beating in life. However, for me it was more about the social commentary and spotlighting a serious issue within our own legal system. HIGHLY recommend and without a doubt I’d pick up the next book by David Heska Wanbli Weiden.


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Spoiler Free Review: Reaper of Souls by Rena Barron

Title: Reaper of Souls

(Kingdom of Souls #2)

Author: Rena Barron

Pub. Date: February 18th 2021

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Format: eGalley/ARC

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 448 pages

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“𝐼 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑟𝑡 𝑚𝑦 𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑟𝑦 𝑎𝑡 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑏𝑒𝑔𝑖𝑛𝑛𝑖𝑛𝑔, 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑚𝑖𝑑𝑑𝑙𝑒, 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑒𝑛𝑑. 𝐹𝑜𝑟 𝐼 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑙𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑑 𝑎 𝑡ℎ𝑜𝑢𝑠𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑙𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑑𝑖𝑒𝑑 𝑎 𝑡ℎ𝑜𝑢𝑠𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑑𝑒𝑎𝑡ℎ𝑠, 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑦 𝑡𝑖𝑚𝑒 𝐼 𝑑𝑖𝑑, 𝐼 𝑟𝑒𝑙𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑠𝑎𝑚𝑒 𝑚𝑒𝑚𝑜𝑟𝑦.“

Reaper of Souls was one of my MOST highly anticipated sequels to look forward to in 2021 and I can honestly say it was worth the wait. Kingdom of Souls (My Review) introduced us to Arrah who comes from a powerful family of witch doctors but for some reason hasn’t come into her own powers. After the catastrophic events we left off in Kingdom Of Souls, Arrah finally has the gift of magic but it came about in a terrible way. Returning from exile, we see Arrah go after those who have taken her people from their tribal lands. What she soon discovers is that this is a war between the Orishas and their demon children and caught in the middle are mortals. The Character development alone was phenomenal & the world building/magic system is very richly woven and inspired by folk magic. Arrah is discovering along the way the many secrets she unknowingly carries within. A deeper connection to it all. A sort of forbidden love. A choice to make. The inevitability of it all.

Rena Barron has delivered such a rich and beautifully written Fantasy where the lives of our key characters are constantly haunted by the mistakes and transgressions of their parents and ancestors. Will they choose to repeat those mistakes OR course correct for the good of their people? This story is told in multi-POV format between Arrah, Rudjeck and a third entity that for spoiler free reasons I won’t disclose. If you love character driven stories that are more slower paced with a big reward at the end, then this is absolutely a trilogy worth giving a go. Seeing as it had been some time since I had read Kingdom of Souls I would’ve loved it if there had been a Legend/Key at the very start. There are a handful of Orishas and their history is fleshed out in the first book but this follow-up goes even deeper into their history and conflicts with one another. Pacing can seem a bit off at times but I chucked that off to Arrah’s own personal journey to self realization which in my opinion was done perfectly! If you’re expecting NOT to be left reaching for more after this book, you are sadly mistaken! I cannot wait for the conclusion to this fantasy/love story💜


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