Book Review: House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland

Publisher: Penguin Teen
Publication Year: 2021
Page Count: 304
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (From GoodReads):

Iris Hollow and her two older sisters are unquestionably strange. Ever since they disappeared on a suburban street in Scotland as children only to return a month a later with no memory of what happened to them, odd, eerie occurrences seem to follow in their wake. And they’re changing. First, their dark hair turned white. Then, their blue eyes slowly turned black. They have insatiable appetites yet never gain weight. People find them disturbingly intoxicating, unbearably beautiful, and inexplicably dangerous.

But now, ten years later, seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow is doing all she can to fit in and graduate high school on time–something her two famously glamourous globe-trotting older sisters, Grey and Vivi, never managed to do. But when Grey goes missing without a trace, leaving behind bizarre clues as to what might have happened, Iris and Vivi are left to trace her last few days. They aren’t the only ones looking for her though. As they brush against the supernatural they realize that the story they’ve been told about their past is unraveling and the world that returned them seemingly unharmed ten years ago, might just be calling them home.

I was initially drawn to this book for 2 reasons. First off, that cover. It perfectly encapsulates the aesthetic of this book. It is beautiful yet creepy at the same time. The second reason being that the author said she was inspired by the movie Midsommar, which is a horror movie I have a weird fascination with. The vibes were definitely similar to Midsommar, and there was a plot point that reminded me of the film as well. I think if you liked that movie, you will also like this book!

If you haven’t read the synopsis, this follows Iris Hollow, who had famously disappeared with her two older sisters as a child. When they were returned to their parents one month later, strange things began to happen to them. Their baby teeth grew back in, their hair turned white, and they had an insatiable appetite. Now, Iris’s older sister Grey has disappeared once again, potentially by the same person who took them as children.

As a character, I did really enjoy Iris. She is kind and passionate, unlike her sisters who use their beauty to get whatever they want in the world. Iris would do anything for her older sisters, because the three of them have an indescribable bond. They are able to sense one another’s presence, if one of them gets hurt, or if one of them is in danger. Reading about the sisters was definitely a highlight of the book for me. The author did a great job at describing them as a singular unit, yet also giving them three distinct personalities. While Iris is sweet and sensitive, Vivi, the middle sister, is a badass rockstar. She puts on a hard exterior, but would really do anything for her sisters. Meanwhile, Grey is a supermodel and designer known for her other-worldly designs. She has the world at her fingertips, using her beauty to get whatever she wants. The three sisters lived such different lives, yet never failed to come back together when they needed each other the most.

Another highlight of this book for me was the writing. Krystal Sutherland used a lot of sensory details, and it really created a magical aesthetic to the book. She was constantly describing smells, sights, and the atmospheres of the places the characters visited. It created a truly atmospheric read, one that was magical yet disturbing at the same time. I did find that some phrases seemed to be overused (for example: ‘the smell of death’ or ‘rot and decay’), which was a bit noticeable in such a small book. Even so, the writing was overall beautiful.

I can’t go into the plot much without giving anything away, but I will say that you should be ready for a wild ride! There are so much more to the sisters than one could ever imagine. The ending was absolutely insane, as the author slowly begins to reveal answers to all the questions the reader is asking throughout the entire novel. There were also some plot points and details that will definitely give you the heebie-jeebies, but in the best way possible. I truly didn’t guess anything that would happen, and everything came as such a surprise to me.

The one critique I had with this book was the weird romance the author threw in. Initially, I found it very refreshing that there was no romance in this book, because that’s not something you see a lot in YA. But towards the very end, there was this really weird, out-of-character moment between two characters that really just didn’t make any sense. It literally came out of left field and left me so confused, because neither character had shown any interest in each other until the moment they kissed. I wish the author wouldn’t have forced the romance, and let Iris focus on her sisters rather than a love interest.

All in all, you should read this book if:

  • You want a short book you can devour in a day
  • Like dark and unsettling stories
  • Books with little romance
  • Atmospheric, spooky reads
  • Books with sisters

What did you think of House of Hollow? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Books to Read this Summer!

Hot girl summer? We don’t know her. Instead, how about we catch up on our summer reading? I know I sure have to!

There are so many books I am hoping to get to this summer, while I have the mental capacity to before school starts again in the fall. My actual list consists of over 20 books, but here are a few I am very excited about!

I also want to mention that I began a page where I made a list of diverse reading recommendations. It can be overwhelming to try to figure out where to begin when it comes to diversifying your reading, and I wish I would have had a similar list when I began reading more! You can find it here.

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

What are some books on your summer reading list? Let me know in the comments below!

Oops… Another Book Haul

Remember when I claimed I was going to reach a 0 TBR this year? Yeah, me neither! Apparently, I am absolutely unable to stop buying books, and so I have another haul for you guys. This is getting dangerous, because I have literally 0 space on my shelves at the moment.

I also want to mention that I began a page where I made a list of diverse reading recommendations. It can be overwhelming to try to figure out where to begin when it comes to diversifying your reading, and I wish I would have had a similar list when I began reading more! You can find it here.

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

I read Serious Moonlight a couple weeks ago and really liked it, so I decided to pick up Starry Eyes when I found it for a really good price on vacation! This is a YA contemporary following to best friends-turned best enemies who get stuck in the Californian woods together after a camping trip gone wrong. This seems like a lot of fun, and I don’t think I’ve read a contemporary set in the woods before. This sounds like the perfect summer read!

Seafire by Natalie C. Parker

This book has been on my radar for ages, so when I saw a brand new hardcover at the bookstore for only $4, I had to buy it. I have been really into pirates lately, and this is a book following a crew made up of female pirates. I don’t know much else about it, but that premise just sounds like so much fun.

Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller

Speaking of pirates, this is another pirate inspired story I picked up recently! After reading Daughter of the Pirate King in just 30 hours, I knew I needed to pick up the sequel ASAP. I loved Tricia Levenseller’s writing in book 1, and I am so excited to see what this book has in store for Alosa!

Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena

Do I have any idea what this book is about? Absolutely not. But the cover is stunning, and I believe it is inspired by medieval India, so that’s really all I need to know.

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Tiffany D. Jackson is one of my all time favorite authors, so I needed to pick up her only book that I haven’t read yet. This is a mystery thriller following Claudia, whose best friend has disappeared. However, no one seems to really notice but her. As she continues to dig deeper, no one seems to remember seeing Monday except her. Tiffany D. Jackson writes the most amazing thrillers, and I’m pretty sure they are inspired by really criminal cases (at least, I know Grown and Allegedly were).

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland

Horror isn’t usually my genre, but I found this book so intriguing that I just had to pick it up. This is a fairy tale following Iris, whose sister has recently gone missing. However, after trying to solve the mystery, she realizes that her sister had been keeping a huge secret from her. I’ve heard this is really creepy, and the author said she took some inspiration from Midsommar. All in all, this just sounds very interesting.

They Went LEft by Monica HEsse

This book has been on my radar for quite some time, so I had to purchase it when I saw it for such a great deal. This is a YA historical fiction novel that takes place in Germany in 1945. It follows a girl who has just been liberated from a Nazi concentration camp. When they were splitting up the prisoners, she was told to go to the right, while the rest of her family was told to go to the left. Now, she is on a mission to find her missing relatives. This has stellar reviews, and I’m sure it will break my heart.

The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank

To keep up with the theme of World War II, I decided to pick this book up. It is on my list of books to read in 2021, especially since my husband and I are trying to plan a trip to Amsterdam soon. I haven’t read this book since middle school, and know it is going to have a huge effect on me.

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

For some reason, I have really been in the mood for classics lately, although I haven’t actually picked one up in awhile. But this is one that I have been wanting to read for awhile, simply out of my love for the musical. I know this story like the back of my hand, so I am excited to get a fresh perspective of it from the original novel.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by OScar WIlde

This is the other classic I purchased recently, since I saw a great deal for a beautiful edition on e-Bay. I’d be lying if I said I knew what this is about, but I have read Wilde’s writing in the past and really enjoyed it. Plus, he is just a fascinating man, so I am excited to dive into this.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

I will never forgive the publishers for this cover change. But I finally gave into the hype of this series and purchased the first book. I honestly have no clue what to expect, because I haven’t loved SJM’s writing in the past. But I am will to give it another try! Bring on the faerie smut, I guess?

A Dark and Hollow Star by AShley Shuttleworth

Once again, I have fallen victim to a book with a beautiful cover. I have absolutely no idea what this book is about, but it is thick and beautiful and about faeries, so I obviously had to buy it.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

This is another book that was on my list to read before 2022. I have read some of Jemisin’s writing in the past, but have yet to read any of her novels. I have heard so many great things about this series, so I obviously have to give it a try for myself. There is no doubt that Jemisin is an incredible writer, although I am a bit nervous this fantasy might be a bit too dense for my taste (like a lot of adult fantasies tend to be).

Well, I sure hope that I am done buying books for awhile. Let me know if you’ve read any of these and what you thought!

E-ARC Review: The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim

Sometimes you gotta burn your fingers to enjoy the s’more.

Graci Kim, The Last Fallen Star

Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents
Publication Date: May 4, 2021
Page Count: 336
Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (From GoodReads):

Riley Oh can’t wait to see her sister get initiated into the Gom clan, a powerful lineage of Korean healing witches their family has belonged to for generations. Her sister, Hattie, will earn her Gi bracelet and finally be able to cast spells without adult supervision. Although Riley is desperate to follow in her sister’s footsteps when she herself turns thirteen, she’s a saram–a person without magic. Riley was adopted, and despite having memorized every healing spell she’s ever heard, she often feels like the odd one out in her family and the gifted community.

Then Hattie gets an idea: what if the two of them could cast a spell that would allow Riley to share Hattie’s magic? Their sleuthing reveals a promising incantation in the family’s old spell book, and the sisters decide to perform it at Hattie’s initiation ceremony. If it works, no one will ever treat Riley as an outsider again. It’s a perfect plan!

Until it isn’t. When the sisters attempt to violate the laws of the Godrealm, Hattie’s life ends up hanging in the balance, and to save her Riley has to fulfill an impossible task: find the last fallen star. But what even is the star, and how can she find it?

As Riley embarks on her search, she finds herself meeting fantastic creatures and collaborating with her worst enemies. And when she uncovers secrets that challenge everything she has been taught to believe, Riley must decide what it means to be a witch, what it means to be family, and what it really means to belong.

*Note: This post does include affiliate links. I may receive a small commission for any purchases made using the links.

First and foremost, I would like to thank Disney Publishing for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review! This does not in any way impact my rating of the book.

There was just so much to love in this story. There were great family dynamics, great friendships, fascinating mythology, and a plot twist I did not see coming at all!

This book follows Riley Oh, who was adopted as an infant into a family of witches. Riley longs to fit in with the rest of her family, and her sister, Hattie, agrees to help her out. After finding a spell that would give Riley magic, the sisters attempt to perform it. However, as a newer witch, the spell overworks Hattie, leading to her death. The only way that Hattie can be saved is if Riley finds “the last fallen star,” an ancient artifact that contains magic.

To start off with what I loved, there was so much Korean mythology in this. I was familiar with some of the terms since I read Wicked Fox by Kat Cho, but a lot of it was new to me as well. Even though it could definitely be overwhelming at times, there is a glossary in the back to help the reader out if needed. The mythology really transported the reader into this magical world the author had created, even if I wish there would have been a bit more world building incorporated.

I think what really shined during this book were the characters. There was not a single character that I disliked or found annoying. Riley, the main protagonist, was a joy to read about. As a 12 year old girl, Riley just wants to fit in with her family of witches. I felt like she read quite realistically for a mature 12 year old, but still didn’t read too young to the point that it was annoying. Along with that, I loved her relationship with Hattie. The sister dynamic in this book was so heart-warming. It definitely gave me Anna/Elsa vibes.

The other relationship I loved was Riley’s relationship with Emmett. It is strictly platonic in this book, although I could maybe see it budding into a romance in the future ones. Emmett is grieving his mother in this novel, and I think his feelings of grief felt very realistic and valid. Even though she died many years ago, he is still processing going through his teenage years without a mom, and the anger he feels with that.

While there was a lot to enjoy in this book, I did feel like the pacing was a bit off. This book relies a lot on the “quest” trope, which really isn’t my favorite. A lot of the book felt like Riley and Emmett were going on senseless missions, and I struggled to see how one thing led to the next. While this was a really cool way to introduce a lot of mythology and mythical creatures, it did leave me a bit bored at times. Even though this is a fairly short book, it did take me quite a bit of time to get through because I struggled just sitting down and reading large chunks at a time. By the last 25% or so, the pacing did improve, making for a fabulous ending.

All in all, I would recommend this book if you like:

  • Books about sisters
  • Detailed, in-depth mythology
  • The quest trope
  • Slow burn fantasies
  • Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

The Last Fallen Star is out now, so be sure to pick up your copy by clicking here!

Book Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Year: 2020
Page Count: 336
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 3.5 stars

Blurb (From Goodreads):

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

After procrastinating picking this book up for months now, I am happy I can finally say that I have read it! One less book to read on my shelves 😉

If you read the synopsis, you’ll know this book follows Princess Soraya, who has poison running through her veins, and is therefore cursed to kill whomever she touches. However, one day her brother tells her of a captured div, who may be able to tell her the secrets of lifting her curse.

One of my biggest pet peeves in books is when the synopsis makes the reader believe the book is going to be about one thing, but is actually about something entirely different. That is how I felt with this book. The short summary I gave you takes place is probably the first 75-100 pages, and then takes a complete left turn.

For positives, I do have to say that this book was very action packed, making for a fairly quick read. There weren’t many moments where I found myself bored (although I felt the ending was a tad drawn out), so I finished this in about 3 or 4 days. I also loved the Persian folklore this book included. Persian culture is not something I am very familiar with, so this book was a breathe of fresh air in that aspect. I loved all the mythical creatures, and learning more about the magic in this world. You can tell the author was very well educated in that aspect, because it was very detailed. I would actually love to read another book set in this universe, because I just really liked the world building.

Along with that, I really liked the relationships Soraya had with her family members, particularly her sister-in-law Laleh. Laleh and Soraya were like sisters growing up, but drifted apart as she became older and more aware of her curse. This was a complex dynamic and I thought it felt realistic, because everyone knows the feeling of drifting away from their childhood best friend.

I wish I could say only good things about this book, but there were some things that fell flat for me, particularly Soraya as a main character. The synopsis says that Soraya is going through a huge internal struggle about whether she is a princess or a monster, but I felt like that was hardly present in the book. It is told in 3rd person, so I felt like we didn’t get a lot of internalization of Soraya, and it was hard to tell what she was feeling. We didn’t see much reasoning behind her decisions, and it felt like we were being told the story, rather than seeing it through Soraya’s perspective. Along with that, some of the decisions she made were just… very questionable. They felt a bit unrealistic and because of that I just couldn’t really connect with her as a character.

Along with that, while the plot started out really strong, about 70% of the way in I just started to feel a bit lost. I felt like the author was trying to do a lot in just 1 book, and think she either needed to expand it into a duology or cut it down for a standalone. I found myself wanting the story to return to the original plot of the girl with the poisonous touch, but that wasn’t the direction it took. I think this was the biggest downfall for me.

All in all, would I recommend this book? I would say yes, if you love:

  • standalone fantasies (little commitment!)
  • monster girlfriends
  • queer fantastical romances
  • mythology/folklore

But no, if you:

  • like character driven stories
  • are only reading this for the girl with the poisonous touch because it reminds you of Shatter Me

What did you all think of this book? I would love to chat in the comments below!

YA Book Recommendations by Asian Authors

This May, I am planning to read books by some amazing AAPI authors in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Therefore, I have compiled this list of books by AAPI authors that you can pick up as well in preparation!

And of course I must include the disclaimer: it is so important to read stories and elevate Asian voices all year long, especially as anti-Asian hate has becoming more prominent in American society. These are great books to read during any time of the year, not just during AAPI Heritage month!

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

After hearing this was a fantasy novel that was a mix of Phantom of the Opera and The Night Circus, I knew I had to read it. Although it had a bit of a slow start, by the end I was totally enchanted by this story. It also left off with such a cliffhanger, so now I have to read the second one! Janella Angeles is a Filipino-American author, and Filipino stories are so important, although we as Americans aren’t exposed to enough of them. I would highly recommend checking this book out!

Wicked Fox by Kat CHo

This book was pretty popular when it first came out, but I feel like the hype kind of died down a bit. Even so, I loved this book so much! This is an urban fantasy set in Seoul, and takes inspiration from Korean mythology. This book follows a Gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who feasts on the souls of humans, disguised as an 18 year old girl. The mythology in this book was so complex and just totally enveloped me as a reader. I can’t recommend this book enough!

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

This was a recent read for me, and one that I simply devoured. This fast paced novel is based on Persian mythology, and follows a princess who has been cursed with poison in her veins that kill everyone she touches. While this wasn’t my favorite novel of all time, I still loved the world in this story, and learned so much about Persian mythology. This also has a Sapphic love story interwoven in the fantasy with a bisexual main character, so this is great if you are looking for an LGBTQ+ inclusive fantasy standalone.

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

I won’t lie- I was initially drawn to this book because of its gorgeous cover. But the story inside is even more gorgeous, following Lei, who has been chosen as 1of the 7 girls forced to become a concubine of the king. After weeks of training, Lei swears that she will not perform her duties, because against all odds, she has fallen in love with someone else. Together, she creates a team dedicated to overthrowing the demon king. This is a book set in a world based in Malaysia, which is a culture I have no exposure to. This book was a great beginning to what I hope will be a fantastic trilogy!

Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao

Switching gears a bit, this is a super cute contemporary that follows Chloe, daughter of Chinese immigrants who are trying to set her up with a horrible boy. Out of desperation, Chloe hires a boyfriend who is too good to be true. However, when she starts falling for her fake boyfriend, things become a bit complicated. I love the fake dating trope, so this was just a fun read! It also dives deep into Chinese-American culture, including holidays, food, and traditions.

I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee

I can’t believe this book hasn’t been more talked about, because it was so cute! This book follows Skye, a plus-sized teenager who loves to dance. When a TV show dedicated to finding the next K-Pop star holds auditions in Skye’s town, she jumps at the chance to try-out. This novel definitely dives into the beauty standards and homophobia in America, but specifically the K-Pop community. Skye was such a fun character to read about, and she doesn’t let anyone bring her down. I couldn’t help but root for her the whole time!

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

Last but not least, one of my favorite reads from 2020! This is a magical realism novel that follows Leigh, who is grieving the loss of her mother. Leigh is convinced her mother has turned into a bird, and is encouraging her to visit her Taiwanese family who she has never met. This was such a powerful story about love, loss, family, and culture. Not only that, but this was just so beautifully written. There are quite a few triggers though, so I would definitely be cautious if you have any.

I would love to hear your recommendations, or what you thought of these books. Let’s chat in the comments below!

Review: Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

I am me because I choose to be me. I am what I want. Some people say you have to find yourself. Not I. I believe we create ourselves to be what we want.

Tricia Levenseller, Daughter of the Pirate King

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Year: 2017
Page Count: 311
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4.5 stars

Synopsis (From GoodReads):

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King. 

I’ll be honest, when I first picked up this book, I wasn’t too sure if I would like it. I had never seen The Pirates of the Caribbean, and just have never been drawn to pirate stories. However, this book changed all of that for me, and now I am craving pirate stories more than ever before!

This book follows Alosa, who is the daughter of the most powerful pirate of the ocean. In an attempt to collect a map that will lead her father to the most coveted treasure in the sea, Alosa is purposefully kidnapped by her enemies. Now, she must find the map on her captor’s ship, or else face her father’s wrath.

I think the highlight of this story was definitely Alosa! Literally, the first word that comes to mind when I think of her is ‘baddie,’ because that is EXACTLY what she is. She is so full of life and energy, and doesn’t let anyone stand in the way of her mission. She is determined, and just a free spirit. I was afraid that no man would be good enough for her, but then the author introduced us to Riden, who I instantly fell in love with. Alosa and Riden’s relationship was so much fun to read about! Watching them catch feelings while simultaneously teasing to kill one another was my weakness. I love enemies to lovers so much, and this was so well done. The shift from one to another was gradual, and didn’t feel forced.

If you like fast-paced plots, this book is for you! This was the definition of a page turner. I read this book in 2 days, because I could not put it down. The book always kept me on my toes, and there was never a dull moment. There was also a plot twist that I did not see coming (although in hind’s sight, it was really obvious but I just didn’t put it together).

So, should you read this book? I say YES, especially if you love:

  • Enemies to lovers
  • Fast-paced plots
  • Adventure novels

I definitely will be needing to pick up the sequel soon! 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Let me know what you thought about this book in the comments below!

April TBR: Books to Read in April!

If you have not been able to tell, I absolutely love doing monthly TBRs. It gives me a chance to talk about some books I am excited for, as well as sets guidelines for what I hope my reading month will look like (even if I hardly ever stick to them). So, here are a few books I am hoping to get to this month!

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

I am so excited that I am actually going to *hopefully* get around to re-reading The Infernal Devices this year! While I do feel guilty for re-reading books when I have so many unread books to read, what is the point of owning a book if you don’t want to dive back into it? I am really hoping this series holds up for me, and I like it as much as I did the first time I read it.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

This is not the book I would normally go for, but I am really trying to expand my horizons and read more literary fiction. I have heard incredible things about this story and this author, so hopefully I enjoy this one when I pick it up!

(Also the author is Swedish, which is another plus!!)

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Believe it or not, this is going to be my first V.E. Schwab book I’ve ever read! Obviously, this author has become hugely popular since the publication of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, so I am so excited to experience her writing for the first time! I’ve heard this story is a bit on the slower side, so I am nervous I may not like this as much as some other people.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

I am very hesitant to put this on my TBR, because I don’t think I’m going to like it. I DNF’d Spinning Silver a couple months ago, and started this book a few months ago and put it down. But, it sounds so fascinating so I really want to give this book one more good try before completely giving up on it (and the author).

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I have been saying I wanted to read this book for months, and so now is the time! I DNF’d Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, but I have heard nothing but raving reviews for this book, and want to give it a fair shot. I will probably buddy read this with a friend, so hopefully that will also give me motivation to actually pick this up and see what the hype is about.

Hot British Boyfriend by Kristy Boyce

Since most of the books on my TBR have been dark, high fantasies, I figured I should probably put a lighter contemporary on here to break things up a bit! This is a book that caught my eye right away, and I guess it takes place in England? Travel books have been my best friend during this pandemic, so hopefully this one is as fun as I hope it will be! (Also the author is a professor at my university? Yay!).

Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

I need to continue on with this series. It’s been 5 months since I’ve read book 2, so I need to continue before I forget everything that happened. I was a little bit disappointed with book 2, and I’ve heard that this is the worst book out of the quartet, but I really want to read A Sky Beyond the Storm, so….

What if It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

I’ve had this book for about 8 months now, and have heard really mixed things about it. I have not read from either of these authors before, so I honestly have no idea what to expect. But I think it takes place in New York City (again, travel novels are my best friend right now!), and one of the main characters is a theatre kid, so it sounds right up my alley!

Let me know if any of these books are on your TBR! Happy reading!

Book Review: Legendborn by Tracey Deonn

“Don’t make your life about the loss. Make it about the love.”

-Tracy Deonn, Legendborn

Publication Year: 2020
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Page Count: 501
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5 stars!!

Blurb (From GoodReads):

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.

She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.

I finished this over a week ago and my mind was completely blown. I am not quite sure how I will be fitting all my feelings into this review, but I am certainly going to try!

This City of Bones-esque story follows Bree Matthews, whose mother mysteriously passed away in a hit and run car accident. In order to escape her childhood memories, Bree enrolls in an early college program designed for high school students at UNC. After witnessing magic on her first night there, a mysterious man tries to wipe Bree’s memory. Yet for some reason, the memories of magic come back to Bree the following morning, making her wonder if there was more to her mother’s death than she originally thought.

The world that Tracy Deonn creates in Legendborn is well crafted and very thorough. Even though this does take place in our world, the magic system she creates is completely Other-worldy. She takes the King Arthur Legend we all know and love, and transforms it into a magical hierarchy that still makes sense in accordance to the legend. There are so many layers to this system, making it so complex. I will admit, I struggled a bit to make it through the first 200 pages because there was a lot of information being thrown at me, but everything ties together in the end, making all the info-dumping worth it!

Along with that, there was simply never a dull moment. Even chapter in this book was action packed and had my heart racing. It is over 500 pages but I finished it in 4 days because I just could not put it down. I needed to know what happened next, and when I wasn’t reading all I could think about is when I would have time to pick it up again! This book has everything you could want in terms of action- fight scenes, magical powers, time traveling, a (possible) love triangle, and best friend drama.

With all the action going on, the author did slow down the pace of the story when discussing Bree’s grief. Bree’s mother’s death is a very central part of the story, and the author does a great job and exploring the feelings that come with losing a parent. I also love the fact that Bree goes to therapy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this happen in a YA fantasy story before. While Bree is reluctant at first, she ends up forming a deep bond with her therapist, who helps her uncover the trauma that she is feeling. There is absolutely no shame in going to therapy, and I think this story is a great job at showing that.

In terms of characters, I loved them all! There were many different characters in this story, but I never had a difficult time differentiating them from one another. While I loved each character, Sel was *obviously* my favorite. I thought the author did a fantastic job at characterizing him, and giving him more layers than the stereotypical bad boy has. It is impossible not to love him, and I would have read this book for him alone.

All in all, the above gif represents how I feel about this book. It had me swooning, laughing, crying, and feeling pretty much every emotion in between. If you are a fantasy reader, a YA reader, or any type of reader, this book is for you! I believe I can even say that this is my favorite book of 2020 so far!

What did you think of Legendborn? Let me know in the comments below!!

ARC Review: Sweet & Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Format: E-ARC
Publication Date: March 9, 2021
Rating: 3.5 Stars
TW: Death of a parent, death of a sibling, grief

Blurb (From GoodReads):

In this charming debut fantasy perfect for fans of Sorcery of Thorns and Girls of Paper and Fire, a witch cursed to never love meets a girl hiding her own dangerous magic, and the two strike a dangerous bargain to save their queendom.

Tamsin is the most powerful witch of her generation. But after committing the worst magical sin, she’s exiled by the ruling Coven and cursed with the inability to love. The only way she can get those feelings back—even for just a little while—is to steal love from others.

Wren is a source—a rare kind of person who is made of magic, despite being unable to use it herself. Sources are required to train with the Coven as soon as they discover their abilities, but Wren—the only caretaker to her ailing father—has spent her life hiding her secret.

When a magical plague ravages the queendom, Wren’s father falls victim. To save him, Wren proposes a bargain: if Tamsin will help her catch the dark witch responsible for creating the plague, then Wren will give Tamsin her love for her father.

Of course, love bargains are a tricky thing, and these two have a long, perilous journey ahead of them—that is, if they don’t kill each other first..

First and foremost, I want to thank Simon & Schuster’s Children Publishing and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

First, I want to acknowledge that cover because it is stunning. The power it holds is absolutely amazing and the reason my attention was drawn to this book in the first place!

This book is a dual POV story that follows two women. Tamsin: a witch who has been cursed to never love and steals the love others have, and Wren: a magic source who is merely trying to save her father from a magical plague that has struck the land. Our of desperation, Wren seeks Tamsin’s help for the cure, even at the cost of losing the love she has for her father.

To start off with the positives: I loved both of these characters! Wren and Tamsin were both strong in their own ways and each a lot of fun to read about. I really liked the magic system that the author created, because while it was complex, it wasn’t overly confusing and I was able to follow with not too much brain power (which is good during midterm week!). Yet even so, I really enjoyed the world that the author created! It was very easy to get sucked into. Even though this is a standalone novel, I would love to see spin offs or companion novels that take place in this world.

Along with that, I really enjoyed this author’s writing style. It was fast paced, and I never became bored with the details or world building! It was just a lot of fun to read and kept my attention throughout the book. The fact that this is a debut novel is even more impressive, and I am so excited to see what the author will be publishing in the future!

That being said, there were a few things in this book that I didn’t love, one of them being the romance. When I heard this was a YA fantasy with a f/f romance, I jumped on the chance to read this because the only other book reminiscent of these traits that I’ve read is A Girl of Paper and Fire, which I loved. I love that this representation is being brought into the YA fantasy world, but I didn’t really find it believable in this story. For the first 100 pages or so, the author is building up Tamsin to be a horrible witch, and the switch from that to the love interest was just a bit sudden to me. It felt like the author just flipped a switch, and I would have liked it to be a bit more gradual.

Lastly, even though I loved both Wren and Tamsin, the dual POV didn’t work for me as much as I would have liked. Both characters had very similar voices, and so I was constantly getting the characters confused with one another, especially in the second half of the book where the author was trying to make Tamsin more likable. I would read pages thinking I was reading about Wren, when it was actually Tamsin, and vice versa. I think giving these characters just a few more distinct character traits would have helped.

All in all, this book was a lot of fun and I would recommend it to readers of YA fantasy, and those looking for my LGBTQ+ love stories for their shelves. The fact that this is a standalone is also great, because it is less commitment for those who are afraid of starting a new trilogy or quartet.

Sweet & Bitter Magic comes out today, so be sure to buy your copy or place a hold from your library!