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Chronicles of a Spell Caster: Book One – Orientation by J.J. Singleton

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ARC was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (September 17th 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Bullying, isolation, injuries, & violence

Friends, it no secret that I’m a devourer of fantasy. So when I was approached to receive a copy of Chronicles of a Spell Caster I, how could I possibly refuse? What I will say, it’s been a hot minute since I touched a fantasy book; So it was nice to finally jump back in the saddle with a fantasy read by a self-published author. It felt really good to get consumed by curiosity and a good fantasy storyline once again. I did have some issues with a few things, but overall I really enjoyed my time reading this book.

Jet has just started freshman year at Welwerth University and things are anything but easy. If you thought freshman year OF college was stressful, try being a student who wields magical power. Jet and his fellow students are put to the test with intense entrance exams, some landing students in the infirmary, which will place them in classes and with scholarships that will secure their future. However, that’s not the only issue Jet faces. With uncontrollable power and family history laced with mystery, Jet is facing a tough freshman year. Did I mention that trying to make friends is a challenge? In revealing some of his abilities, Jet has made his freshman year ten times more difficult by making enemies and causing everyone to either fear him or want something from him. Needless to say, it should be a very interesting year ahead.

Let me start by saying I fell madly in love with the world building. Any fantasy reader who enjoys detailed world building, you’re going to really enjoy the world in this book. It’s unique in it’s own way. Gives a lot of vibes similar to the world building in HP series, the Percy Jackson series, and I would even say even some vibes of The Mortal Instruments series. However, it remains uniquely it’s own world with it’s own rules and magic system. The author put a lot of thought and effort into the way the world was built and doesn’t shy away from the details. Even when writing the main character, we get to see, experience, and learn about the world and the way the magic system works through Jet’s eyes. I also enjoyed the history of this world. It was very easy to get drawn in with that.

Shifting to the topic of the types of powers and abilities, I thought the author did a fantastic job being able to make them incredibly interesting and making the reader want to know more. When Jet starts talking about the Casters, those who are descendants of the ancients, I was hooked. I wanted to know more and it really motivated me to keep reading on. With that being said, every battle scene was packed with action. I always felt like I was hanging on by my seat during these scenes, wondering how the battle would conclude.

“If they are afraid of what magic can do, wait till next year. I will give them something to be afraid of.”

With all of these good things that a thoroughly enjoyed, there were a lot of things that made it hard to read this book at times. One of these things were the large amount of side characters to keep track of and who was who. There were a lot of times where certain characters didn’t stick out enough that I didn’t even remember meeting them. When compared to other characters like Kyle, Kyle will stand out more due to his bully nature and his attitude towards anything that threatens his position in university. There were times where the amount of characters we meet in such a short amount of time felt overwhelming and we got small pockets of information dumps about those characters.

My biggest issue would have to be the repetition of things. There were a lot of times where the repetitions of things bogged the pace of the story down. There were times it felt like there were pockets of information dumping. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you need the details to understand certain things, but other times the extra details aren’t necessary. If there was more chopping and polishing, I think the pace wouldn’t have been impacted so much.

Overall, I truly enjoyed reading this book. The ending was probably one of my favorite parts of this book and I’m eager to see how things will unfold in the second book. I think this series has a lot of potential and I’m really excited to see it bloom. I would recommend this to any of my fellow fantasy lovers. And let me just say, reading this book on a stormy, rainy day is absolute perfection!

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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Shine Your Icy Crown (You Are Your Own Fairy Tale, #2) by Amanda Lovelace

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ARC was given by NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (January 26th, 2021)

Break Your Glass Slippers

Content/Trigger Warnings: Child abuse, sexual assault, toxic relationships, eating disorders, mental illness, anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide, trauma, bullying, sexism

“If I’m with you, it’s because I think you let in more stardust than storm clouds.”

Friends, I love Lovelace’s work and you all know how much I loved the Things That Haunt duology. However, I’m starting to notice a pattern with a lot of these duologies, these trilogies. I always end up loving the first and/or second book, but then the final book seems… lack luster, to say the least. Maybe this wasn’t the right time for this to come into my reading life or maybe it was from the lack of emotions this book didn’t stir. Whatever the reason, I just didn’t love this book the way I thought I would.

Starting with the positives, I’ve always loved the way the author writes. Out of all the modern poetry I read, Lovelace is the one I can connect with the most. I know a lot of readers struggle with this writing style especially since everything is lower case, but I find that it’s smooth read for my own experience. The other thing I really loved about this book was the artwork. The art in these books is always so beautiful and if I’m remembering correctly, Lovelace does all the art. There are these gorgeous forest and crystal panels in this book and they were probably a big highlight for me. And lastly, I couldn’t stop pulling quotes. I’m a lover for a good quote and I was able to pull some many from this book. So that made me really happy.

“Embody the heroine you needed when you were a child, but don’t forget to embody the heroine you need now, too.”

Despite the things I loved, there were a few things that just prevented me from loving this book. My first issue with this book was the lack of the theme. From the beginning this book states that this is going to be centered around sisters or sister relationships, and I just didn’t get that feeling from this book. It started off strong, but then that theme kind of disappeared for me. Tying in with that, there was this vibe of negatively charged vibes while reading this book. When I finished reading this book, I didn’t feel good at all. Most of the time when I read the books by this author, there’s a big shift from the negative to the positive, and that just wasn’t here in this book. The negativity seemed to dragged throughout the majority of the book for me. The other issue I had with this book was the repetitiveness. I haven’t seen many people talk about it, but for me there were sections that felt repetitive to the author’s past work. I was really hoping for something fresh, I was excited for the sibling theme (as I’m very partial to mine) and this just wasn’t it.

Overall, there were some things I loved and then other things I really didn’t like. I think the execution could have been done better and I wish the author would have focused on the actual theme just a little bit more. There’s also a big imbalance between the poetry and prose. There was a lot more prose than I was expecting. I’m hoping for future works we see the balance return. And I still recommend giving this book a chance. Even though this book didn’t work out well for me, it doesn’t mean that will be your experience.

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky, #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse

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ARC was provided by NetGalley and Saga Press in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (October 13th, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Ritual disfigurement, cult themes, poisoning, abandonment, mentions of homophobia, mentions of slavery, death, mass murder, suicide, death of a parent, loss of a loved one, grief, graphic violence, graphic injuries, beheading, trauma, mentions of human sacrifice, physical assault, brief mentions of prostitution, allusions to rape, mentions of anxiety, alcoholism

“A man with a destiny is a man who fears nothing.”

What a wild ride of a read! I have been sitting on my thoughts and feelings for a good chunk of time. I feel that anything I try to write in my review about this book will pale in comparison to the actual contents of this book. Truly, this is a fantastic read and as a reader new to Roanhorse’s writing, I’m very impressed. I also want to put emphasis on a few things before diving into my thoughts. For starters, please practice self-care when reading this book because there are a lot of content warnings (as you can see listed above). These content warnings start from chapter one and proceed throughout the book. The other thing to keep in mind is I’m not an “ownvoice” reviewer for this book. I’m Apache, a Native American reader and reviewer, but this book has pre-Columbian cultures such as Yutatec Maya, Tewan, and Aztec cultures, and I cannot speak about those cultural elements and representation. So please do your own research on those cultures and also read the acknowledgements page.

Set in a high fantasy world with a civilization inspired by pre-Columbian Americas, Black Sun follows four characters who have destinies all intertwined with one another. In Tova, the holy city, Winter Solstice usually means a time of renewal and celebration among all, but this year is different. This year’s winter solstice converged with the solar eclipse, a rare celestial event that dictates unbalance. Here, our story begins with Xiala, a disgraced Teek woman, who has been tasked with an important mission to cross dangerous waters to deliver a supposedly harmless passenger to Tova in time for the Convergence.

Xiala – The bisexual (possibly pansexual), disgraced Teek woman our story begins with, is the hired captain of a ship and tasked with the important mission to deliver Serapio to Tova. Though she originally didn’t want to take on this mission for various reasons, she’s been given too many reasons why she should.

“She instinctively reached for her Song the way another woman would reach for a weapon. She no longer had a dagger at her waist, but even if she had, her Song would have come first.”

Serapio – Stripped of his childhood and destined to become the Crow God, Serapio is placed upon Xiala’s ship, to seek passage straight to Tova for Convergence. Despite everything he’s been through, everything he’s been taught, his time spent on Xiala’s ship and in her company leaves his wondering of what life would be like if he didn’t have a prophecy to fulfill.

Naranpa/Nara – The Sun priest, where we experience the more political side of this world. Nara is in a vulnerable position as the Institution is loosing respect, and will sooner learn there’s a lot more at steak in the game of politics than Nara originally believed.

“She wished that power allowed her to divine her own future, or the future of any of the priests. But it was forbidden, and that was one rule she would never break.”

Okoa – A character that comes into to play later on in our story. Okoa is first introduced to us when we learn about the matron/leader of the Carrion Crow clan being dead. He is oldest child of the leader, who left home to train to become a great warrior. He swift learns that things might not be all it appears to be and returns home to get to the bottom of what has really been happening in his clan since he’s been away.

All of these characters will intertwine throughout this story of destiny, dark magic, prophecy, and sacrifice. They will struggle along the way, face hardships, and try to fill their roles the best they can. For some, they’ll think of what life would have been like if they weren’t walking the path they’re currently on.

“The costliest mistake one can make is to underestimate one’s opponent through low expectations.”

I love the way Roanhorse has crafted and built up her characters. None of these characters are good or evil, they’re simply morally grey. I say it all the time, I love morally grey characters. When characters have multiple layers to them, complex feelings, and backstories that make you crumble. Each pov for the four main characters was designed to build a bigger picture of where they came from, what their objective is, and the events that are currently taking place in that time frame. I definitely think two of the main characters were stronger than the other two and there’s also a lot of things we learn about in each pov that doesn’t have an answer, doesn’t clarifies on certain moments, and definitely leaves the reader wondering. I think the two weaker povs are designed to be more mysterious and I’m hoping we’ll see a little more insight in the second book in this trilogy because there’s some parts I need answers to!

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was the world building. In high fantasy, I love the details of the world and the way it gets built up and this book hit a lot of marks for me. Roanhorse did an outstanding job on the world building. There’s so much detail in the world, the history, even with the character development there was such great detail. It truly feels like the author poured a lot into this book to deliver a world that the reader will never forget. Not to mention, the ending of this book, the cliffhanger that it was, fantastic and I’m still not over it. I’m still thinking about how this book ended.

I also have to talk about the representation throughout this book. We are given so much representation and the author does a phenomenal job. I mentioned with Xiala that she’s bisexual (possibly pansexual). As the reader, we learn Xiala has sept with women, but we also see a lot of feelings brewing between her and Serapio. It’s also hinted that Serapio is also bisexual/pansexual. During a flashback and briefly mentioned, Serapio has a relationship with one of his mentors and how special that mentor was to him. Of course, we see the feelings forming for Xiala and him wondering what it would be like to truly be with her. There’s also the past relationship between Nara and Iktan, which I believe was a female and nonbinary relationship. There’s also a transgender side character. We also have disability representation throughout this book. Serapio is blind, Xiala is missing limbs, and Nara’s brother walks with a limp. So if you wanted diversity, Roanhorse delivered in so many ways.

“If your stories are of the glory of war, then I will know you value power. If your stories are of kinship, then I know you value relationship. If your stories are of many children, I know you value legacy. But if your stories are of adaptation and survival, of long memory and revenge, then I will know you are a Crow like me.”

I also want to remind you, as the reader, to please practice self-care. I don’t think I can emphasize this enough. There are a lot of dark themes throughout this book and it starts immediately in chapter one. There’s a lot of heavy chapters because of the dark themes you have to read through. I’m very much a fantasy reader, I can devour a fantasy, especially a high fantasy, like it’s no one’s business, but this took me longer to read than I expected. There were times where I felt overwhelmed by a lot of the dark themes in this book. I’ve also had a few conversations about this because there were some readers who were genuinely concerned for their mental health. I think as of right now, I’m the only reader who has gone to the extent of being specific with the content/trigger warnings in this book. So please look over them, make sure you’re in the right head space, and take care of yourself while you read this book.

I think my biggest struggle with this book is the multiple povs. I say this so, so much. Multiple povs is not my strong suit with reading. I can handle three max, but once a book goes past that, it becomes a little dicey. That isn’t to say books with multiple povs are bad. For me as a reader, sometimes those povs can bleed together or feel like the book is dragging on more than it needed to. And it definitely affected my reading. So, between the multiple povs and the dark themes, I had to dock a star because it impacted my reading and enjoyment.

“I am the only storm that matters now, and there is no shelter from what I bring.”

Overall, I’m so grateful I got to read an arc of this book! I really enjoyed this book as a whole. I think Roanhorse did a fantastical job creating a world many readers are going to fall into, really enjoy, and there was so much that blew me out of the water. I’m really impressed especially as someone new to her writing. I think my true love lies within the characters because I can’t resist a morally grey character, it’s a weakness of mine! I have no doubt this is a book that’s going to take readers by storm and I have no doubt will end up on many top 2020 lists!

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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While the Earth Sleeps We Travel: Stories, Poetry, and Art from Refugee Youth Around the World by Ahmed M. Badr

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ARC was provided by NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (October 13th, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: War themes, bombings, refugee crisis, poverty, homelessness, mentions of gang violence, talk of racism, Islamophobia, mentions of terminal illness (cancer), death, murder, mentions of homophobia, mentions of drug abuse and drug addiction, grief, loss of a loved one, trauma, mentions of terrorism

“Together, we are speaking up and proclaiming to the world that our existence is worthy of its attention.”

Friends, I truly cannot express how important this collection is. I truly believe with my whole heart that this collection is a gift that should be talked about so much more. It’s rare when we hear the voices of people who have been severely impacted because of war, violence, and other hardships, but even rarer when they’re children. I think I spent my entire reading experience crying. This book truly is a gift and I hope many readers decide to pick this book up.

While the Earth Sleeps We Travel is a collection of poetry, stories, and art by refugees who have been displaced for various reasons, but the most common is war and violence. In this book these people come together to share their hardships, their experiences, hopes, and dreams. From those who are just children to an elderly artist determined to teach their artwork to those who’ll listen, we’ll hear the voices of refugees from a plethora of places. All beautifully expressed on page to be shared with the world.

“We have to find out what people like and need and use that to help them towards a better future.”

Truly, this book is a gift. It’s heartbreaking, humbling, and encouraging. As I mentioned, I spent the entirety of this book crying because it was so moving. I’ve listed some of the pieces that really stood out and touched the softest part of my heart.

⛰️ Erwin’s Story
⛰️ Lina Habazi’s Story
⛰️ Karem Potela’s Story
⛰️ O’s Story
⛰️ Meteorite Yasan’s Story

I truly hope everyone picks this book up and take the time to listen to the voices on the pages in this book. I think this book is going to unravel many people, cause the readers to pause and really take a look at their privilege. I don’t think everyone will appreciate this book, but I think everyone needs to read this book at least once in their life.

Overall, this was just a really touching book. I can’t encourage you enough to take the time to pick this book up and hear the voices of these people. Their experiences, their souls have been laid bare for all to read and experience in this book. This is such an important collection and I hope it gets the spotlight that it truly deserves.

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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The Language of Ghosts by Heather Fawcett

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ARC was provided by Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (September 8th, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Loss of a parent, grief, murder, death, scenes of spiders (for those with arachnophobia), human experimentation

I’m pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this book! Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect from this book. All I needed to know was magic and a sea serpent that loves cake! What more could you possibly need? Apparently, we needed more because this book delivers so much more than those two elements.

“It was the raspberry sundae that did it.”

Our story follows Noa Marchena, an ex-princess who only wants two things; to restore her family to the throne and to prevent her brother, Julian, from being consumed by the dark powers he wields. Though these things are easier said than done. With her hands full from babysitting and a cake loving sea serpent, it makes being a royal advisor to her brother that much harder. And now that they know their enemies are searching for long-lost magical languages, Noa’s job just got that much harder.

Noa is quite the main character to follow. She’s the middle child of the the three siblings in this book and she’s quite the strategist of the family. Noa always seems to have her hands full with writing in the Chronicle, a book of record, and having to babysit her younger sister, Mite, when Julian isn’t teaching Mite how to practice her magical abilities or doing the important duties required of a ruler. Noa is the only one who doesn’t have any magical abilities or at least, she thinks she doesn’t. Once she uncovers she can speak one of the long-lost magical languages, Noa’s personality starts to change and we begin to see the flaws. And you know how I loved flawed characters.

This book is also broken down into three sections; Astrae, Evert, and Whelm. So below I’m going to give a spoiler free summary of each section.

Part I: Astrae

Astrae is actually a moving island that you can steer by a ship wheel and is also the island Noa and her siblings fled to for safety. Here the Marchena siblings have found refuge and made the island their base of operations to plan to reclaim their home, Florean. Even though Julian has bound a sea serpent to their island and has allies on the island who are willing to help, this doesn’t stop their enemy forces from finding a way to impact their defenses and cause chaos. After a batch of mysterious mangos arrive on the island, suddenly defenses are becoming corrupted and the enemies armies have found their new safe haven. And now it’s up to Noa to save the whole island or be destroyed by the enemies who have taken everything away from them.

“That was when she realized two things at once: One, she was reading a magical language. And two, the man in the gray robe was standing right in front of her.”

Part II: Evert

After the chaos the enemy armies have left, Noa, Julian, and Mite walk around the island to assess the damage that’s been done. The outcome isn’t good, but despite the damage, they were able to learn that the enemy forces are searching for the lost magical languages. So they set sail for an unmarked island known as Evert to find one of the lost magical languages. And once they uncover it, Noa’s curiosity gets the better of her, only leading to a great discovery. We also see Noa’s personality begin to change which seems to put her into some dicey situations.

Part III: Whelm

Once Noa gets out of a really dangerous situation, she seems to find herself in another difficult situation. This time, she ends up losing one of the lost languages and thus, the enemy soon descends upon them. And the final battle will be one you’ll never forget!

I truly loved the world building throughout this book. I especially loved the way the magic languages came to life throughout this book. There’s a lot of mystery and something so exciting about it all. And can I take a moment to appreciate the otters in this book?! They’re the cutest and I loved how the author made them to be fluid between words, how they’re the only creature with that ability. I love that so, so much!

And of course, I have to tell you how much I feel in love with the sibling bonds. Despite how much they get on each others’ nerves, at the end of the day they would do anything to protect one another. And it felt like a true sibling relationship between all three of the Marchena siblings. They annoy each other, they get frustrated with one another, and they love each other so much that they do things to protect each other. We also see how they feel disconnected from one another and I really appreciated that.

My one real issue with this book was Mite’s chapters of her point of view. We only receive a few of these chapters and I felt like we could have done without them. Not to mention, for those who have a fear of spiders like myself, these chapters are laced with spider content. So I’m not the biggest fan of these, personally, but I think many readers will appreciate. Just know these chapters do have spider content.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. As I mentioned, I didn’t know what to expect going in except magic and a sea serpent. I just loved it and it’s such a fast read! I wasn’t it expecting it to fly by so fast. There’s definitely a presence of needing to know what will happen next and I think many readers are going to love this book come fall. And there’s also an old, lazy dragon who acts like a cat! Come on, content for the heart! Truly, a great read for those who like fast paced fantasies!

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline

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ARC was provided by William Morrow in exchanged for an honest review

This review is being published after the release date (July 28th, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Colonization, child abuse, grief, death, loss of a loved one, mention of claustrophobia, body shaming, alcoholism, gaslighting, sex, racism/racist slurs, anxiety, drug abuse, scene of attempted rape

Chills. I have literal chills running down my spine and every time I have tried to type this review, I get even more chills remembering what I read. This was such a wild ride and I never saw a lot of the twists and turns. There’s such a heavy, ominous vibe about this book and I can’t get over the way the rougarou was shown throughout this book. I also want to point out that this book is ownvoices for the Métis representation, Cherie Dimaline is a Métis author, but only one voice of the Métis community. I also want to point out that I’m not Métis. I’m Apache and I can’t make any commentary on any Métis cultural history or cultural elements that are laced throughout this book.

Victor has disappeared. After a night of their first serious argument, Victor left their home to check the trap only he never came back. Alone and broken hearted, Joan hasn’t stopped looking for her missing husband for almost a year. Then one terrible morning while hungover, she finds herself tumbling to the revival tent that many Métis have been gathering to hear a charismatic preacher. Joan comes into the tent after the service has already concluded, but just as she turns to leave, an unmistakable voice falls upon her ears.

I loved Joan as a main character. Joan is in no way a perfect heroine, but her flaws and the way she loves so deeply makes you appreciate her all the more. She’s such a loving character, she doesn’t shy away from the deep sorrow she feels, and she’s determined to to find Victor. I also really loved Zeus. He’s such an underdog and the way he grounds Joan was such a wonderful thing to read. I think both of these characters deserve more credit. Victor was a bit of a hard character to come to like because we don’t see enough of his personality. However, I love, love, loved how much Victor loves Joan and despite everything that happens with him, he still continues to search for her, continues loving her. I think these characters deserve much more credit for being the flawed characters they are, but also being so human in everything they do in this book.

“There’s lots of ways to become one.” She counted on her fingers. “Being attacked by a rogarou, mistreating women, betraying your people…that’s the ones we know around here, anyways.”

I really loved how we get some insight into Métis traditions and stories, especially with the Rougarou. Throughout this book we also get to see a deep strength of the Métis people. We see how the traditions, the stories, and the teachings are pass from generation to generation. And you just get an overwhelming sense of how resilient the Métis truly are.

The author dives into other important territories like the way religious missionaries continue to try to take advantage of Indigenous communities in their quest to take their land. We also see how colonialism continues to impact Indigenous communities as a whole and how quickly it escalates into violence. And of course, you see the racism and the stereotypes Indigenous people face every single day. You see how harmful it is and just how quick people are to assume certain things about you when you’re Indigenous.

I also want to take a moment to add this little side note. I’ve noticed a lot of readers have given this book a negative review and one of the main reasons has been to claiming this book is “too religious” or it’s a religious book. And hearing any reader say that makes me question if anyone who made this claim actually read the book in the first place. This is not a religious book in any way. This book is commentary on the way religion has been weaponized and used against Indigenous communities, how it continues to be weaponized. It’s also a commentary on how people are so willing to follow a religious leader without ever questioning their motives or actions. As someone who comes from a very colorful religious upbringing and having married someone who escaped from a cult in their youth, this is not a religious book and instead shines light on the problematic issues with religion that no one wants to talk about or address in any way.

“Old Medicine has a way of being remembered, of haunting the land where it’s laid. People are forgetful. Medicine is not.”

My only issue with this book was the multiple point of views. If you’ve been a follower of mine then you know I usually don’t read books with multiple povs. With how sharp my memory can be, when there are more than two point of views involved, things tend to blur together and that definitely happened with this book. There were parts I had to reread because I was struggling to remember who’s pov I was currently reading in.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. If I’m being honest, I definitely wasn’t in the right head space while reading this book and I think if I had been, the multiple povs would have been a bit easier for me to keep track of. I also want to remind all of you who are reading this review, if you’re not Métis then you don’t get to comment on the cultural elements in this book. Instead, you should be seeking out other Indigenous reviewers to hear their opinions on this book. And you should also consider doing your own research to help further your understanding about the Métis and their history. I can’t tell you how to read this book, but I strongly encourage you, if you’re non-Indigenous, to expand your knowledge, your understanding of things you don’t understand, and to challenge your preconceived ideas you may have about Indigenous people, Indigenous culture, and Indigenous history.

“If you’re gonna fight, then fight like hell. Otherwise you’re just dancing. And nobody ever defied death with a waltz.”

Buddy Read with Destiny from Howling Libraries 🧡

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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The Tea Dragon Tapestry (Tea Dragon, #3) by Katie O’Neill

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ARC was provided by NetGalley and OniPress in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (September 1st, 2020)

🐉 The Tea Dragon Society | Review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

🐉 The Tea Dragon Festival | Review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

🐚 Aquicorn Cove | Review ⭐⭐⭐⭐

🐚 Dewdrop | Review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Grief, depictions of depression, and loss of a loved one

“Every Dragon is different, too. And Ginseng Dragons are known to be very loyal.”

Friends, are you really surprised that I fell in love with another book by Katie O’Neill? I loved the first two books and have loved other works by Katie O’Neill. When I found out about The Tea Dragon Tapestry, I instantly knew I wanted to read it as soon as possible. The fact that this is supposed to be a conclusion to this series has me wanting even more from this world. Keeping those fingers crossed for more book featuring Tea Dragons and new characters to fall in love with!

Our story brings all the characters we’ve met from the first two books together, but also introduces us to a new character, a master blacksmith, who comes to seek the work of Greta. Our cast is so delightful, voice their challenges or personal struggles, and wonderfully diverse. And of course, so many important topics are discussed and addressed in this book.

“You feel like you’ve lost your path. It’s natural to be sad. It’s alright to let those feelings wash over you, and give them time to soak into the earth. That’s when things start to grow again.”

I really loved that we get to see more of Minette and her journey. If you remember from the last book, Minette seems to have some memory loss and also the new owner of Chamomile. We see how Minette handles feeling like she’s strayed off her path and how she finds her way back to feeling like herself. Speaking of which, I loved the moment she shared with Eric and gave a bit a wisdom that really had an impact with Minette. And that leads me to believe the first series topic that you can see so much of throughout this book is a feeling of being lost or missing something that was once something that sparked life in your soul.

Of course, I have to talk about grief and loss of a loved one. While it’s a more subtle theme, we see how grief and death impacts someone, and those around them. When Ginseng was first given to Greta in the last book, we learned that Ginseng previous owner had died. We knew Ginseng was grieving, but we never got more insight to it. However, this book shows Ginseng grieving and the depression that can come along with that. So we get to see both sides of the grief that’s taking place in this book. There’s a moment where Greta is trying to get Ginseng to eat something which leads to a moment of both parties feeling emotions of sadness and loss. When Greta’s Papa came into the picture, they spoke a truth that hit so deep within my soul. That very moment is so powerful, so important, and I think one of the best scenes in this entire book.

I also really loved the master blacksmith, Kleitos. I thought they were a fantastic character to introduce into this story. I liked how they’re a character who seems to be around the same age range as Erik and Hesekiel. And I loved how Kleitos talks about how losing the passion and inspiration for their blacksmithing. I loved those scenes where Kleitos is figuring things out and how sometimes you need to take a step back or to take a break from it all. Greta and Kleitos also shared a moment and I quote, “Looking at this work, I see that you have much to learn… but I also see that I do too.” When I read that, my heart filled with so much warmth. Even though Kleitos is a master blacksmith, felt like they lost their passion and love for their work, that single moment shows that you can still learn in your craft, there are still things that can surprise you, and rekindle that flame within you. A fantastic character to add into this book!

“My dear, that is something you cannot control. When someone is grieving, the best thing you can do is let them heal on their own, and show them that you’ll be there for them.”

Overall, this book is soft, filled with many important topics, of course wonderful family dynamics, but fills the soul with so much warmth and wholesomeness. Tea Dragons are probably my favorite dragons now, thanks to Katie O’Neill. And as I mentioned, I truly hope we see more of this series, these characters, and this world. I feel like there’s so much that hasn’t been explored yet. I can’t wait to see what O’Neill comes up with next and hopefully we’ll see more Tea Dragons soon! If you were thinking about picking any of these book, I highly recommend them. They’re soft books laced with important topics that everyone needs to read about. Plus, the illustrations are always stunning!

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards #1) by Janella Angeles

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ARC was provided by NetGalley & Wednesday Books in exchanged for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (August 25th, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Alcohol and drinking, mind manipulation, controlling/possessive behavior, trauma, misogyny, mentions of blood and injury, missing persons, grief/loss, death of a parent

“For in the world of magic, a woman’s place lies in the quiet shadows of labor magic, the encouraged path. The safer one. Because the ones who dare most often disappear.”

Dearest friends, with this being one of my anticipated release for 2020, I wanted nothing more than to love this book with every fiber of my soul. The question is, did I fall in love with this book? Yes, yes I did! It captivated my attention from the very first page and left me craving more. It’s no surprise that Where Dreams Descend has made it onto my top books of 2020! I am in love with this book, Janella’s writing, and I can’t wait for all of you to pick this book up!

Kallia has been a showgirl at Hellfire House for most of her life. With a deep bond with the head of the club, Jack, and everything at her finger tips, how could she possibly want anything more? Until a flyer lands in her possession about a competition happening in Glorian where magicians compete to be the next headliner for the Conquering Circus. With an everlasting dream, powerful magic, and an ambitious desire, Kallia will start to uncover all the lies and manipulation keeping her caged at Hellfire House. When she finally flees Jack, she’ll learn just how dangerous Glorian really is for a magician especially as her fellow competitors start to disappear and everything she’s longed for is threatened.

♠️ Kallia – The Star, our main heroine, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost. Truly proud of her powers, how hard she’s worked, with a dream to one day preform in Glorian. A cinnamon roll in every way, trying to break free from the chains and cage Hellfire House placed upon her.

♠️ Jack – The Master, controlling and mysterious, the enigmatic keeper of Hellfire House, and more than one lie told to keep the show going. Using manipulation and deception to keep Kallia caged at Hellfire House, protecting her from the dangers of the the outside world.

♠️ Demarco – The Magician, a mysterious man, the brooding judge with a past that won’t stop haunting him. He is a broken, soulful boy who used to be a powerful magician and now he’s the strictest one to prevent others from making the mistakes he made. Also, he’s unable to resist the pull of Kallia’s energy and her fiery passion.

I say this all the time, give me a book with morally grey characters and it’s a sure guarantee that I will fall in love with your book. Where Dreams Descends delivers just that, characters who are morally grey. No matter if they were a main character or a side character, I fell in love with so many of them and I truly can’t wait to see more of them. And while I’m talking about our lovely characters, we have to talk about Aros! Aros was a fiercely loyal character to Kallia. Despite their original interaction, I truly believe Kallia saw the true potential and all the best qualities in Aros. I never mattered if Kallia told him her secrets, he was always right by her side especially in the times where she needed him the most. He was a witty, charming, and such a soft character who delivered so much for me, as a reader.

Phantom of the Opera meets Moulin Rouge with Cinderella and Repunzel elements? Yes please! The writing style is lush with vivid descriptions, mysterious wonder, with an atmosphere so captivating, so familiar that it will hook you from the very beginning! I was in a complete trance of tension and anticipation as I submerged myself into this story line. Angeles has the kind of writing style that I love. One that catches you from the first page and makes you want to power read the whole book in one sitting. She laces her book with a story and plot laced with hints, clues, and truths that reveal just enough, but doesn’t show our author’s full hand. Leaving us, the readers, to theorize, wonder, and visualize what’s in store for us next. With so many questions unanswered and a cliffhanger of an ending, book two is bound to deliver a good time.

“It was wrong to justify what sort of hurt mattered and what didn’t. Anything that left scars came from hurt. Only now was she realizing the scars she bore and had trained herself not to see.”

I also want to talk about a lot of the content warnings in this book. Of course, please make sure you practice self-care and self-love when reading anything with content warnings. Even though there are clear elements of fantasy in this book, I want to say how accurate the representation is for being in a relationship or having a connection to someone who uses mind manipulation or essentially brainwashing as a tool to aid with their control and possessive behavior. I don’t want to go into too many details, but as someone who has lived with someone who has that kind of behavior, it’s an accurate representation. Ever emotion, every feeling Kallia feels due to the things Jack subjects her to, this is what it feels like to have that kind of presence in your life and to have them coming back after only short amounts of time from the last you saw them.

And of course, there’s the romance that blooms! This was the factor that surprised me the most. Even though it’s right in the description, it still took me by surprise and I still fell madly in love with it. I do wish we had more of it though. The romance was there, but there truly wasn’t enough for this to be labeled as a romance. So I’m hoping in the second book we’ll be seeing more of the romance elements that we’re all dying for!

Overall, I’m honestly shocked. It feels like an eternity since I read a ya fantasy that really reminded me of why I love the fantasy genre so much. Even after finishing this book, I’m still asking myself why I’m so surprised when it has so many elements that I love. This book is bound to be on so many readers’ top books for 2020. With this being one of my anticipated releases for 2020, I’m happy to say this was everything I wanted and more. If you’re looking for a darkly dramatic book that’s own voices then I can’t recommend this book enough to you!

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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Infinity Son (Infinity Cycle, #1) by Adam Silvera

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Death of a loved one. murder, grief, anxiety, panic attacks, trauma, abandonment, graphic violence, scene animal/creature fighting/abuse, death of a creature, body shaming, paranoia

ARC was given by Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (January 14th, 2020)

“Your humanity is what makes you heroic, not your powers.”

It’s no secret that I love a book that has good mythical beasts especially if they’re dragons and phoenixes. This book had me hooked and fully excited to see how phoenixes would be woven into a ya fantasy. Top that off with a super hero element, you had me. However, while I was overly excited for a book full of magic and mythical beasts, I did become exposed to a lot of negative reviews early on. So when I had finally received an arc of one of my anticipated books of 2020, I was a worried about picking it up. Friends, I truly wish I could say that the start to 2020 kicked off with a good start, but this wasn’t the book for me and my heart is incredibly heavy admitting that. I truly wanted to love this book with every fiber in my being, but sadly that wasn’t the case.

Infinity Son follows the perspective of four characters throughout this entire story. I will leave a breakdown below. Emil and Brighton have always dreamed about becoming heroes someday, but at some point, Emil reached a point of wanting all the fighting to stop while Brighton only wants to join in the fray of it all. Among all this chaos and fear, a gang of specters have been rising from the shadows and getting bolder every day, making peace nearly impossible. Then one day, Emil and Brighton get caught up in a situation that leads to Emil developing his own powers and nothing will be the same ever again.

Different Classes

🔥 Humans – Just like you and me!

🔥 Celestials – Born with magical powers. Example; the ability to heal any wound, controlling wind or fire, etc…

🔥 Specters – Steal powers, violently takes the essence of magical creatures

POVS

🔥 Emil – The “chosen one,” ability is that of a phoenix, wants nothing except for the war to stop and there to be peace

🔥 Brighton – Power hungry and thirsty for fame, brother to Emil

🔥 Maribelle – Member of the Spell Walkers, wants vengeance for the death of her parents, hates the leader of the Spell Walkers

🔥 Ness – Specter, shape-shifter, mysterious, wild card of the story-line, love interest to Emil

Each character plays an important role in the development of the story and offers their own experience and personal view of the events taking place. With so many character point of views, it’s very easy for a lot of the details and plot to get muddled together. There’s also a lot that happens in each perspective that causes a lot of the povs to be more character driven than actual story-line or plot driven. All of this aside, every reader will find someone they’re strongly drawn to regardless if they’re a side character or one of the main characters.

Characters aside, I love the story telling built around phoenixes and hydras in this book. As I mentioned before, I love phoenixes and a lot of the details the wove around the phoenixes, the way they live and rebirth themselves, and just the symbolism of what they stood for in this book just took hold of my heart. Same for the hydras. Hydras are a species of dragons and they appear all throughout legends, stories, mythology, and of course, MTG. They symbolize power and strength, and they were no exception in this book. I wish we had received just a little bit more with the background and relationship between hydras and phoenixes, but I won’t complain with what we got. However, I do want to point out that there is a scene in this book between and phoenix and a hydra that is very similar to animal fighting in the real world. While these are mythical creatures, I wanted to point this out because there are details of how the creatures are handled and treated. It’s even to the point that Emil is even internally recognizing that both creatures are terrified and are being forced into a situation that has been caused naturally.

I want to take a moment to truly appreciate Prudencia. I loved her as a side character and I loved the way she showed her love, her loyalty, but also how we got to see her moments of fear, sadness, frustration. Also, I just know in my soul she is going to play a much bigger role in this series and I can’t wait to see her bring her full potential to the table. She’s such a treasure and she’s one hell of a friend to Emil and Brighton.

I also have to mention that I love the way therapy and seeking help is handled in this book. I loved that there was an open invitation for Emil and his family to seek guidance and counseling to navigate the tough, emotional strain they were all put under. I also liked that we get a few scenes of therapy session and how it was normalized and worked in to everything else happening in the book. And I really loved how Emil decided to have a private session and voice his struggles, his concerns, and his fears. That was one of my favorite scenes because Emil is so vulnerable, but we see him realizing and deciding he can’t work through this on his own.

And of course, I have to mention the wide variety of family dynamics. We get so many diverse family situations in this book and I loved every second of it. We have an aunt and niece dynamic, a widowed mother of two, there’s an adopted element thrown into the mix, there’s so many and I don’t want to spoil them all because some of them do play into the plot. But it was so great reading about so many different families in this book. It truly made my heart warm even if many of the situations weren’t the greatest.

I also want to point out ow much I loved Emil and Ness near the end of this book. More specially there’s a scene where Emil is body shaming himself and Ness says the most wonderful things. The whole scene is very pure, very raw, and becoming comfortable with one another. It just made my whole heart swell with so much love and appreciation. Despite everything this book does (and it’s a lot), this scene had me awing, crying, and I never wanted that scene to end with them parting. I loved it so much. And just so you know, their connection is very slow burn and that good enemies to lovers trope.

“You should only feel beautiful to yourself. And only be with someone who gets that you’re beautiful because of who you are.”

Despite all of the good this book has and even though there are many, many moments that I loved and wanted more of, there were also a lot of things that I didn’t enjoy and even now am still bothered by. For starters, I mentioned before this book is a four character pov, but I’m not a fan of 4+ character pov. I feel like important details get lost because the majority of a book is spent building up the characters and then we’re getting backstories when we should be getting more of the story-line or hitting a plot twist, something should be happening. It was also really troublesome because we have two povs that go from being a unique povs to being completely laced with hated, jealousy, anger, immense vibes of craving power; especially near the end where it seemed like these two povs really showed their true colors of absolute hostility. It just left a never ending bad feeling with my reading experience.

Now, I understand every television show or book has one, but I thought it completely unnecessary to have Brighton act like a complete fool and make idiotic decisions for two-thirds of the book. For the majority of the book, Brighton was making extremely poor choices to the point of it putting the team or mission in jeopardy, the situations being frustrating because he’s so hot-headed and won’t listen to anyone, and it made me not want to read through his parts throughout this book. The same thing with Maribelle. Majority of the book we have Mariabelle either being disrespectful to the Emil or the team captain and being spiteful towards her or we just get parts of her completely obsessing over the death of her parents instead of seeing her being productive and helping the team. They were both frustrating and irritating characters to the point of them being my least favorite parts of the book, and any scene with them in it had me dreading their parts.

And we need to have a serious talk about Emil’s character development. There are many times in this book where Emil could have had potential character development, but instead we just receive development of his powers. For the majority of the book or at least two-thirds of the book, Emil spends it having panic attacks in thinking he’s going to die or he’s talking about how much he doesn’t want to be a solider in this war. The only time we really see Emil setup in this book is during events that something happens to his brother. I also have to address that Emil never once steps up and calls anyone out on side characters pressuring him to do things he doesn’t want to do. For example, near the beginning of this book therapy is made an options, but Emil didn’t want to go to therapy because he was internally trying to work things out. Instead of the other characters leaving him be, his own brother and best friend trick him into going to therapy and forcing him to sit through a session. Situations like this, Emil could have taken charge, told everyone to back off or just leave him to figure it out, but instead Emil just silently endured these situations instead of speaking up for himself or standing his ground. Despite all of this, Emily is still a great character and one of pure heart, but he definitely deserved more moments for development that were outside of his powers.

I also want to point out to those who read comics often or have read them enough will find that this book seems like a comic book written in a ya fantasy format. What I mean is this feels like a graphic novel or comic turned into a thick book when this feels like it could have done really well as a comic. Also, there are large parts of this book that feel very familiar to situations and scene that have happened in the Marvel and DC Comic universe, more specifically with the Justice League from DC Comics and X-Men from Marvel. Due to that feeling, the last third of this book became very predictable and was a very familiar story-line/plot that I’ve seen a lot in those type of graphic novels before. So that last third of the book really left a lot to be desired especially since this book seemed so unique and original in the beginning up until that part.

Aside from all of this, the biggest issue I had with this book was this constant feeling of hopelessness throughout the book. Once it hit about 50%, it was like a switch got flipped because there was an immense sense of dread and hopelessness. And following that, the way this book concluded left me feeling drained and left me feeling terrible. So much happened at the end and it was like one terrible thing after another. There was no ending on a good note or even a climatic cliffhanger, it left on a terrible note of darkness, dread, death, and spite. Not the kind of ending I was expecting and definitely not a satisfying one.

Overall, this was just an okay book for me. It wasn’t terrible, but it also wasn’t the greatest. For me, this book left a lot to be desired and I had my hopes pretty high for this. While I’m sad that one of my anticipated releases of 2020 didn’t live up to my expectations, I truly enjoyed a lot this book offered. There were many things that I loved seeing like the different powers and the phoenix history, the different family dynamics, the great moments of vulnerability Emil shows, the talking and displaying of “it’s okay to go to therapy and seek out ways to work things out,” there were so many more great points this book offered. I will definitely continue this series. I believe this series is going to be a trilogy and I’m excited to see how these characters grow and develop. More importantly, I’m ready for more phoenix and hydra action!

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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