Monday, December 28, 2020

Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welch

 Love & Olives
Author: Jenna Evan Welch
Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date: November 10, 2020
Pages: 512
Source/format: e-ARC//Publisher
Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from

Liv Varanakis doesn’t have a lot of fond memories of her father, which makes sense—he fled to Greece when she was only eight. What Liv does remember, though, is their shared love for Greek myths and the lost city of Atlantis. So when Liv suddenly receives a postcard from her father explaining that National Geographic is funding a documentary about his theories on Atlantis—and will she fly out to Greece and help?—Liv jumps at the opportunity.

But when she arrives to gorgeous Santorini, things are a little…awkward. There are so many questions, so many emotions that flood to the surface after seeing her father for the first time in years. And yet Liv doesn’t want their past to get in the way of a possible reconciliation. She also definitely doesn’t want Theo—her father’s charismatic so-called “protégé”—to witness her struggle.
And that means diving into all that Santorini has to offer—the beautiful sunsets, the turquoise water, the hidden caves, and the delicious cuisine. But not everything on the Greek island is as perfect as it seems. Because as Liv slowly begins to discover, her father may not have invited her to Greece for Atlantis, but for something much more important.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Love & Gelato comes a Mamma Mia–inspired tale about a teen girl finding romance while trying to connect with her absent father in beautiful Santorini, Greece.

M Y  T H O U G H T S 

Liv Varanakis lives with her mother and her stepfather in Seattle. Her father left her family when she was about eight and he currently lives in Santorini, Greece. Liv has always had a good relationship with her father and when she was younger, she would always be Indiana Olive uncovering the secrets of Atlantis with her dad. One day, a postcard with her name on it beckons her to Greece. She refuses to go but her mother convinces to reunite with her father for 10 days.

So during the summer before senior year, Liv travels to Greece. At first her father is no where to be found and she has to hop on a motorbike with Theo, her father's friend's son, in order to meet her father at Oia. Liv spends time in Greece to mull over what life means to her. Her boyfriend wants her to go to Stanford but she really wants to go to RISD to pursue art. Liv tries to forgive her father and to make up for lost time. I love how Theo nicknames Liv Kalamata. Even though Theo and Liv don't warm up to each other at the beginning, their relationship slowly blossoms. And the fact that Theo wants to be an adventure filmmaker, it definitely intrigues Liv. In Love and Olives, Liv breaks out of her shell and embraces who she is not only as a person but to really hone on her artistic skills and to make long lasting relationships. 

Jenna Evans Welch not only transports her readers to another beautiful European country but she is able to tell us a wonderful story. I love how Welch starts each chapter with one of the items that Liv's father left behind...from Big Red chewing gum to pages of Plato's Timaeus and Critias. Liv is able to reconnect with her father through a documentary they are filming about finding Atlantis for National Geographic. They both rekindle their daughter/father relationship over one of their favorite things they bond over. 

I highly suggest Love & Olives for readers who are consumed by wanderlust and those who want to be transported somewhere new. I also enjoyed reading other books by Welch such as Love & Gelato and Love & Luck

Friday, November 13, 2020

Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao

Title: Rent a Boyfriend
Author: Gloria Chao
Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date: November 10, 2020
Pages: 400
Source/format: e-ARC//Publisher
Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before meets The Farewell in this incisive romantic comedy about a college student who hires a fake boyfriend to appease her traditional Taiwanese parents, to disastrous results, from the acclaimed author of American Panda.

Chloe Wang is nervous to introduce her parents to her boyfriend, because the truth is, she hasn’t met him yet either. She hired him from Rent for Your ’Rents, a company specializing in providing fake boyfriends trained to impress even the most traditional Asian parents.

Drew Chan’s passion is art, but after his parents cut him off for dropping out of college to pursue his dreams, he became a Rent for Your ’Rents employee to keep a roof over his head. Luckily, learning protocols like “Type C parents prefer quiet, kind, zero-PDA gestures” comes naturally to him.

When Chloe rents Drew, the mission is simple: convince her parents fake Drew is worthy of their approval so they’ll stop pressuring her to accept a proposal from Hongbo, the wealthiest (and slimiest) young bachelor in their tight-knit Asian American community.

But when Chloe starts to fall for the real Drew—who, unlike his fake persona, is definitely not ’rent-worthy—her carefully curated life begins to unravel. Can she figure out what she wants before she loses everything?

M Y  T H O U G H T S 

Chloe Wang hires a fake boyfriend, Drew Chan, from Rent for Your 'Rents to take home to her parents during the holidays. However, who would have known that she will fall in love with Drew. Sometimes love can be found in the most unexpected places and situations.     

Chloe wants to appease her parents and to get away from Hongbo Kuo. While her parents try to set up an arranged marriage, Chloe wants to make her own choices. Drew takes on the job as pretend boyfriend in order to earn money so he can pursue his dream being an artist. 

From the first page, I fell in love with Gloria Chao's writing. It reads effortless and smoothly. I love Chloe from the start and understood exactly how she feels when she has those internal monologues. Rent a Boyfriend is written in two POVs with Chloe and Drew alternating chapters. Chloe and Drew both are hilarious. Their reactions to what Chloe's parents have to say are priceless. I couldn't stop chuckling when reading the novel.

I can understand how Chloe feels about the expectations her parents pave for her. Although my parents let me choose my own path in life, I can relate to typical Chinese expectations and wants for their children. Chao's incorporates humor within the novel and showcases cultural differences between Chinese culture and the western culture. I appreciate her subtext regarding certain Chinese traditions and concepts. Things like mentioning mooncake points instead of brownie points makes the characters more believable. 

Rent a Boyfriend is a heartfelt contemporary novel where family expectations, finding yourself and cultural identity collide. Join Chloe and Drew on a love adventure they didn't know existed.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Non-Bookish Hobbies

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and the meme moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. This week's Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers to list their top ten non-bookish hobbies. The following bookish hobbies are in no particular order. 

1. Baking and cooking - I love baking but I am starting to like cooking much more lately. I love stumbling upon recipes and trying to create scrumptious dishes. Not only is baking and cooking fun, but you save so much money eating at home and you can tweak the recipe to your liking. Also, it's always fun to cook and bake with loved ones.

2. Needle Felting - I stated needle felting when I attended a workshop at a Harry Potter Convention. I was hooked! There is something satisfying stabbing wool to create an ornament or a little figure. It's a create way to relieve stress and to create something new!

3. Playing Animal Crossing - I am a new fan to Animal Crossing and can I say that I am obsessed with Animal Crossing New Horizons! It's so much fun and I am enjoying being able to visit friends virtually since we cannot visit people during the pandemic. The game has been a life saver and has helped me greatly during these unprecedented times. Also, I love the seasonal events! So much fun!

4. Drinking tea - I love drinking tea during the colder months. I am very fond of loose leaf tea. I like to relax with a steaming mug of delicious tea whether it be a strong black tea to a soothing green tea. Tea invokes memories for me. It brings out the emotion and it's pauses time. I love meeting up with friends for afternoon tea during non-pandemic times. Nowadays, I love to curl up with a book while drinking tea.

5. Walking outside - I love walking outside especially during autumn. The crunch of the leaves, the brisk autumn air, the eye-catching foliage and the sweater weather is everything that I can wish for in a perfect walk.

6. Listening to music - Music definitely makes me feel better. I feel more at peace when I can open Spotify and play a song I want to hear or when I discover a new artist. I have been enjoying K-Pop lately and have been obsessed with groups like (G)I-dle, Blackpink and Dreamcatcher. I am also a huge fan of The Harp Twins. Camille and Kennerly are so talented! They cover metal/rock music and they also do covers of fandom related songs as well with harps! Lately, they have been creating their own music which features their Nordic heritage. 

7. Traveling - I do miss traveling and I hope to travel more once the pandemic is over. There is something intriguing and inviting when you visit a new place. There is so much to explore and to take in. I love learning about the history and the culture of new places I visit. 

8. Trying new restaurants - Speaking of traveling, one of my favorite things to do is to try out all the yummy food and drinks at restaurants. My husband and I love eating the local fare. However, we also love trying new restaurants near where we live too. Yum! Food is life and makes me happy!

9. Craft beer - My husband and I love going to brewery tours and trying out craft beers. We even got married at a brewery and had our reception at a biergarten! I do like a good pint! Cheers!

10. Sleeping - I have to admit that I love sleeping in and on days that I can, I will sleep in pretty late. I am not much of an early bird but I can say I am more of a night owl. 

What are some of your favorite non-bookish hobbies? Do we share any hobbies?

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

Title: Kingdom of the Wicked
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publisher: JIMMY Patterson
Publication date: October 27, 2020
Pages: 448
Source/format: e-ARC//Publisher
Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from

From the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Stalking Jack the Ripper series comes a new blockbuster series…

Two sisters.

One brutal murder.

A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…

And an intoxicating romance.

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost-even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked-princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Nonna Maria has warned Emilia and Vittoria about the seven ruling princes of Hell and how they must stay away from the Malvagi's followers. Descended from a Goddess, through the di Carlos maternal line, Emilia and Vittoria are witches. They are known as the Daughters of the Moon. Their family is one out of 13 witch families in Palermo.

Although Emilia and Vittoria love listening to the stories of Nonna Maria, they don't take her seriously when she tells them not to go out or to be careful. The clashing of two cornicello necklaces long ago has been kept a secret between the twins for about ten years and Nonna tells the girls they must keep the amulets separate at all costs. 

Most of the novel occurs when the twins are 18-years-old. The prologue occurs when they are eight. As the Gates of Hell weaken over time, a prince of Hell emerges when he is summoned through a spell. The seven sins become the seven princes of Hell, each able to travel through different realms. It happens that Wrath travels to Palermo and Emilia becomes bond to him via a crescent moon/snake tattoo. Readers also learn more of the other princes of Hell has Emilia encounters them. 

The Kingdom of the Wicked is written in first person through Emilia's point-of-view. As Nonna tells Emilia to find forgiveness and acceptance into her her heart, Emilia wants to avenge what happened to her sister. Extroverted Vittoria has been hiding secrets from introverted Emilia and Emilia does whatever it takes to find out the truth. 

Kerri Maniscalco transports readers to an enchanting world in Palermo, Italy where witches hide in secret and dangerous demons roam. Maniscalco's intriguing and atmospheric descriptions tantalizes all the senses. Not only is there mystery in the air but I enjoy reading about Emilia's love for food and the family's trattoria, Sea and Vine. If you love fantasy books with descriptions of food, this is the one to pick up. Not only is Kingdom of the Wicked full of magic, witches, demons and food, but a strong family bond is vital.

I find the notion of turning each of the seven sins into a prince of Hell fascinating and creative. The way Maniscalco describes each prince physical descriptions and their actions is perfect! She captured each sin within an entity. However, the dialogue between Wrath and Emilia seems forced at times and sometimes unrealistic.

Although Kingdom of the Wicked is a fantasy novel, Maniscalco infused her Italian heritage and a family restaurant into this novel. It's great to see how her family lives within the pages of the Kingdom of the Wicked and how her family is an inspiration for the creation of the book. I cannot wait to pick up the next book in the series. I highly suggest this novel to readers who enjoy the Caraval trilogy by Stephanie Garber and All that Glitters (Enchantée) by Gita Trelease.

"Magic is a living, breathing entity; it thrives on the energy you give it. Like all forces of nature, it is neither good nor bad - it simply becomes based on the user's intent. Feed it love and it blossoms and grows. Nourish it with hate and it will deliver hate back to you tenfold." - Notes from the di Carlo grimoire

"Nightmares didn't last forever. I just had to make it through the night."

Monday, October 5, 2020

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

 Magic Lessons
Author: Alice Hoffman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: October 6, 2020
Pages: 416
Source/format: e-ARC//Publisher
Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from

In an unforgettable novel that traces a centuries-old curse to its source, beloved author Alice Hoffman unveils the story of Maria Owens, accused of witchcraft in Salem, and matriarch of a line of the amazing Owens women and men featured in Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic.

Where does the story of the Owens bloodline begin? With Maria Owens, in the 1600s, when she’s abandoned in a snowy field in rural England as a baby. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria learns about the “Unnamed Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl all she knows. It is here that she learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back.

When Maria is abandoned by the man who has declared his love for her, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it’s here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Love is the only thing that matters.

Magic Lessons is a celebration of life and love and a showcase of Alice Hoffman’s masterful storytelling.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Magic Lessons is the prequel we have all been waiting for! Readers finally get a glimpse of Maria Owens's story and how the Owens's curse began. For those who are familiar with Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic, you are in for a treat.

Maria Owens was abandoned as a baby in front of Hannah Owens's home. Hannah is gifted at the Nameless Art and acted as a mentor for Maria as Maria grew during childhood. However, Maria did have a chance to find out who her birth mother and birth father are. Unfortunately, they were not all about raising Maria as a family unit due to a complex situation back in the 1600's. Maria eventually sees the harrowing death of someone she looks up to, gets sold in servitude on a boat to Curaçao, works hard to pay off her debt for freedom as a child, falls in love with a man who lives in Salem, gives birth to a child from said man, tries to locate this man in Salem, only to find out he was using her.

What Maria didn't know was that her daughter's father is actually a well-known man in Salem, MA who is married and has a child. Her heartbreak grows while a curse is a-brewing, as readers are immersed in the world of chaos. When I was reading this novel, I was silently rooting for Maria and Samuel Dias even though I know Maria steadfast in finding Faith's father.

Alice Hoffman has a gift in storytelling. She is able to narrate such a wonderful novel. Hoffman weaves historical fiction and magical realism within Magic Lessons. The pacing is steady and spans many years from when Maria was a baby to her adult years. I did enjoy reading sections where we see Faith's perspective when she flourishes helping others with the Nameless Art. Through hard work, love, regret, revenge and heartbreak, Maria lived a difficult life but she always tried to find the light beneath the darkness. She has escaped death several times. Unfortunately, her curse lives among the Owens's women for centuries to come. 

Monday, August 31, 2020

Hunting November by Adriana Mather

Title: Hunting November
Author: Adriana Mather
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date: May 5, 2020
Pages: 368
Source/format: Hardcover//Purchased
Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Synopsis (from

Surviving a few weeks at the world's most lethal boarding school was one thing. But now comes the real test: Can November Adley find her missing father before her enemies find her? Subterfuge is the name of the game in this thrilling sequel to Killing November, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Hang a Witch.

After surviving a crash course in espionage at the mysterious Academy Absconditi, November has only one purpose: finding her missing father. Along with fellow student (and heartthrob) Ash, November follows the clues that her father left, embarking on the deadliest treasure hunt of her life. The first clue is in her hometown, where old friends beckon and unexpected enemies lurk around every corner. The second clue is in Europe, where revelations about her family's history will plunge her into an international web of deception, lies, and intrigue. The third clue is deep in enemy territory, surrounded by the most skilled assassins and master strategists, and where everyone wants her and her father dead. Can one girl with limited training infiltrate a centuries-old organization that is powerful enough to topple empires? November only knows that she'll do whatever it takes to save her father . . . or die trying.

M Y  T H O U G H T S 

Hunting November takes place immediately after the events that occurred in Killing November. November and Ash are on the lookout for November's father and both are granted permission to leave Academy Absconditi. However, the duo must be careful who they interact with and who they trust because the Lions are out to kill them. 

After returning the her hometown, November tries to piece clues together with the help of Ash. Starting her hunt in Connecticut, the duo heads to Edinburgh and London where they meet new faces and reunite with familiar ones. If you've read Killing November, you are in for a treat with reading Hunting November. Although the novel is not set primarily at the boarding school like its previous counterpart, Hunting November is still full of adventure and mystery. Instead of proving herself in front of her classmates, November must outwit the most skilled assassins and strategists of the Strategia.

The pacing of the novel is super fast and there is a lot of action. When I read Hunting November, I am thinking about the cinematography; it truly reads like a movie. The world building of the Strategia world is fantastic while it blends in very well with the modern day normal world. Adriana Mather has elevated the stakes in this novel. Sure, in Killing November, November had to dodge death from a murderer on campus. However, in Hunting November, there is a bounty over several heads and the Lions will not stop until they get what they want. 

November has matured since the start of the first book in the duology. However, the most growth I've seen in a character in the duology is definitely Aayra. She has transformed from from a devious snake to something more complex. She yearns for a true friend and a challenge, which she sees in November. I am also growing more fond of Matteo in this sequel and of course I still love Ash. 

I highly recommend Hunting November and its predecessor for readers who love action, adventure, boarding schools, alliances, betrayal and mystery all rolled in one. Readers will devour this novel if they enjoyed reading the following series: Harry Potter, The Vampire Academy, Bloodlines and/or Stalking Jack the Ripper.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Unravel the Dusk Blog Tour: Review + Moodboard + Favorite Quotes

Thank you to Caffeine Book Tours for this opportunity to showcase the beautifully written Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim. Unravel the Dusk is the sequel to Spin the Dawn, which is part of The Blood of Stars duology. If you are looking for an adventurous and fast-paced fantasy, look no further. This is the duology you need to pick up! I included some of my favorite quotes and a moodboard down below. Check out the rest of the #UnravelTheDusk blog tour for mood boards, favorite quotes, creative features, playlists and more!

Title: Unravel the Dusk
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date: July 7, 2020
Pages: 368
Source/format: ARC//Giveaway via Elizabeth Lim
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Kobo

Rating: ☆☆☆1/2

Synopsis (from

The thrilling sequel to SPIN THE DAWN, a magical series steeped in Chinese culture.
Maia Tamarin’s journey to sew the dresses of the sun, the moon and the stars has taken a grievous toll. She returns to a kingdom on the brink of war. The boy she loves is gone, and she is forced to don the dress of the sun and assume the place of the emperor’s bride-to-be to keep the peace.

But the war raging around Maia is nothing compared to the battle within. Ever since she was touched by the demon Bandur, she has been changing . . . glancing in the mirror to see her own eyes glowing red, losing control of her magic, her body, her mind. It’s only a matter of time before Maia loses herself completely, but she will stop at nothing to find Edan, protect her family, and bring lasting peace to her country.

YA fantasy readers will love the sizzling forbidden romance, mystery, and intrigue of UNRAVEL THE DUSK.


"We were like the sun and moon, sharing the same stars and the same sky."

"If dying is this beautiful, then I wish I were a tree too. I'd be happy to die and be reborn in the spring."

"Plum blossoms are the first flowers to bud after winter," I remembered. "They're a symbol of hope and purity."..."And new beginnings," Edan said quietly.

Images from and


Elizabeth Lim grew up on a hearty staple of fairy tales, myths, and songs. Her passion for storytelling began around age 10, when she started writing fanfics for Sailor Moon, Sweet Valley, and Star Wars, and posted them online to discover, "Wow, people actually read my stuff. And that's kinda cool!" But after one of her teachers told her she had "too much voice" in her essays, Elizabeth took a break from creative writing to focus on not flunking English.

Over the years, Elizabeth became a film and video game composer, and even went so far as to get a doctorate in music composition. But she always missed writing, and turned to penning stories when she needed a breather from grad school. One day, she decided to write and finish a novel -- for kicks, at first, then things became serious -- and she hasn't looked back since.

Elizabeth loves classic film scores, books with a good romance, food (she currently has a soft spot for arepas and Ethiopian food), the color turquoise, overcast skies, English muffins, cycling, and baking. She lives in New York City with her husband.

WebsiteFacebook | Twitter | Instagram 


Unravel the Dusk is the sequel to Spin the Dawn. After Maia Tamarin completed Lady Sarnai's last tailoring request of sewing the dresses of Amana, Maia has unlocked a new version of herself that she did not know she would find. And no, it's not the Imperial Tailor position but something more powerful yet deadly. Not only does everyone know that she is not Keton Tamarin but she is battling a demon within her.

With Edan in hiding and Lady Sarnai unwell, Maia is A'landi's only hope for peace. However, things don't go as planned with the wedding and two kingdoms are at war. Although the love story between Edan and Maia is not as prevalent in this installment of The Blood of Stars duology, their bond is still strong. Readers do not encounter Edan in the flesh until the second half of the novel. Edan's and Maia's love for each other never wavers. Maia, however, becomes closer to Ammi. The female friendship between Maia and Ammi blossomed slowly and is an excellent addition to the novel. As Maia's only female companion, Ammi is able to help Maia in many ways that contrasts to Maia's other relationships. But Maia is worried that the demon within her will harm Ammi.

Unravel the Dusk emits a darker tone compared to Spin the Dawn. While the predecessor is a mask of wonders, Unravel the Dusk shows the true colors of humanity and what everyone is capable of. We see the character development of multiple characters. We see how vulnerable yet powerful Lady Sarnai is. She is a multi-faceted character that I would love to read a companion novel about. Readers see how Ammi forgives Maia even though it took a while for Ammi to regain trust between the two ladies. Seeing Maia with her family is heartfelt and warming. Readers can see how they care for each other deeply no matter what.

Of course, Maia shows the most development of all. She has changed a lot compared to when she was working in her father's shop to competing in the competition to become the Imperial Tailor to even crafting the dresses of Amana. However, the most important test of character is how she handles the demon within her. Every day passes by and the demon inside her grows stronger. Maia fights the fire inside consistently even though demons and ghosts beckon her name to return to the Forgotten Isles of Lapzur. Can Maia overcome the demon and gain control or does she embrace the demon within? The more magic she uses, the harder it is to resist the call of darkness. The war and chaos in the novel parallel with how Maia is at war with herself. She is trying her hardest to overcome the demon's desires of destruction.

Elizabeth Lim expands on the already fantastic world-building that was set in Spin the Dawn. The map included in both Spin the Dawn and in Unravel the Dusk helps readers understand where everything is located in correlation to one another. Lim's expansive details of each landmark are memorable in both novels. Unravel the Dusk is divided into three sections, one for each dress of Amana. This is important regarding how Maia unleashes the power of each dress and unlocks their true potential.

Unravel the Dusk is enrapturing and picks up a notch in The Blood of the Stars duology. Join Maia on a journey where she fights the demons within her and still stays true to herself. Warning, there is human possession in this novel.

There is still time to pre-order this Unravel the Dusk! Check out this pre-order incentive as well!


Check out this awesome giveaway. The giveaway ends on July 7th (Philippine Standard Time). Nicole's Novel Reads is not responsible for books lost or damaged in the mail. Good luck!


Check out  Caffeine Book Tours for links to each blog.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Girl, Serpent, Thorn Blog Tour

Thank you to Flatiron Books for inviting me to be part of this amazing blog tour! If you are looking for a beautifully written fairytale that defies the typical tropes, read further for more information regarding Girl, Serpent, Thorn. This is a story that will change how you view fairytales and for good reasons.

Title: Girl, Serpent, Thorn
Author: Melissa Barshardoust
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Release Date: July 7, 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Kobo

Rating: ☆☆☆☆


There was and there was not... So begins Melissa Bashardoust’s utterly transporting new YA novel, GIRL, SERPENT, THORN (Flatiron Books; on sale July 7th, 2020; Ages 12-18). In this richly imagined fairytale, Bashardoust puts a modern spin on the Shahnameh, a Persian epic with parallels to “Rapunzel,” and draws inspiration from other classic stories like “Sleeping Beauty” and “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” The result is a captivating coming-of-age novel filled with princesses, demons, and fairies—a tale that is at once thrillingly fantastical and deeply human.

In the vast kingdom of Atashar, a young princess lives a hidden life. Cursed from birth with a deadly touch, 18- year-old Soraya finds herself forever confined to her chambers, shrouded from the eyes of the public and forced to keep her distance from friends and family alike. Her sole comfort is her private garden of roses and thorns, the only living things that don’t wither at her touch. But with each passing year, Soraya has grown more isolated and increasingly tormented by dreams of the Shahmar, a young man whose anger and dark desires twisted him into a demon...and with poison, loneliness, and resentment flowing through her veins, Soraya worries that perhaps she, too, is more monster than princess.

As Atashar prepares for the wedding of her twin brother, Sorush—the heir to the family throne and the sun to her shade—Soraya is presented with an opportunity to speak with a captured div, one of the demons who may hold the secret to breaking her curse. The div, Parvaneh, is not at all what Soraya expects: Beautiful, mysterious, and intriguing, Parvaneh seems more than willing to aid Soraya in her quest...for a price. Now, after a life lived in the shadows, Soraya must decide whether she’s finally ready to step into the light and determine her own destiny. Together with the dashing soldier, Azad—the only person, besides Parvaneh, who isn’t afraid to stand too close to her—Soraya sets off on a journey that will force her to confront her greatest powers, her deepest desires, and her most frightening vulnerabilities.

With exhilarating narrative turns and an unforgettable heroine at its center, GIRL, SERPENT, THORN is a brilliantly told story of family, self-discovery, and love in all its forms.


With crystalline, sometimes sensuous prose, [Bashardoust] digs into her characters' motivations and manipulations, deftly keeping readers on the hook until the final, stunning turn." — Booklist starred review

“Surefire for...readers fond of princesses capable of embracing actual demons as well as the inner sort.” — School Library Journal starred review

“Bashardoust’s exceptional attention to folktale structure and Soraya’s hard-won acceptance of herself make for a lyrical, inspiring read.”— Publishers Weekly

“An alluring feminist fairy tale.” — Kirkus

“Girl, Serpent, Thorn is YA literature at its best.”— BookPage

“Gorgeously written and quietly enthralling tale of family, monsters, and the things we do for love.” —S. A. Chakraborty, author of The City of Brass

“A deliciously lush fairy tale of a novel. I was swept away by Bashardoust’s prose and found myself losing track of time as I read, turning every page, sinking into her magnificent world, wishing it would never end. At its heart, it’s a book about a girl who may be monstrous claiming her own power, filled with twists and a fascinating queer romance that stole my own heart.” — Patrice Caldwell, editor of A Phoenix First Must Burn

“The queer, good-monster book of my dreams.” — E.K. Johnston, author of Star Wars Queen’s Shadow


Melissa Bashardoust received her degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, where she rediscovered her love for creative writing, children’s literature, and fairytales and their retellings. She lives in Southern California with a cat named Alice and more copies of Jane Eyre than she probably needs. Melissa is also the author of Girls Made of Snow and Glass.


Girl, Serpent, Thorn opens up with a story within a story. The story told as the opener is actually a true story that a mother tells her firstborn daughter, Soraya. Cursed, Soraya harbors a poisonous touch that kills any living being and thus is isolated in the shadows from others. The royal family is preparing for the wedding of the young shah next month. The shah is actually Soraya's twin brother, Sorush. As twins, Sorush is known as the Creator, one born of hope, and Soraya is known as the Destroyer, one born of doubt.

As Sorush gets ready to marry childhood friend Laleh, Soraya feels even more abandoned. Soraya is desperate to find more about her curse. However, the only being she thinks can help her is someone who was captured and is held as a prisoner in the palace. Melissa Bashardoust introduces readers to a world where not only Soraya's secret is hidden behind walls but Soraya finds love with someone unexpected. With a guard's help, Soraya is able to blend within the people and is able to navigate the world.

The world-building opens up new frames of mind. There are new places among Atashar to explore and new beings to meet. The characters we meet in the Girl, Serpent, Thorn are characters you want to get to know better. Some of them, you would like to befriend. While each character may have different intentions, many want to help Soraya. However, when Soraya finds a way to extinguish her curse, she will need to decide whether it's worth it to risk others' lives. Throughout the novel, Soraya learns self-acceptance and self-worth. Things may not seem as they appear and many characters possess secrets that can be deadly. Join the journey of family, loyalty, and betrayal. Immerse yourself in a world where the divs and humans hold secrets that can literally kill.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a captivating character-driven novel where there are many unexpected twists and turns. The novel is a wonderful, unique fairytale woven with Persian elements and Zoroastrian beliefs where love interests and character's paths are not so obvious. As Soraya battles between good and evil, she paves her own path and it's up to her to decide whether to be a princess or the monster that some people see her as. She becomes somewhat of an anti-heroine in her own story. Soraya is a strong woman. She is curious. She is headstrong. And she seeks knowledge. She has a weapon that wields such power but what type of woman does Soraya want to be? Will she betray her own family so she can lift the curse? To read more about Soraya's story, pick up Girl, Serpent, Thorn.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Title: Spin the Dawn
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date: July 9, 2019
Pages: 392
Source/format: Hardcover//Purchased
Rating: ☆☆☆
Synopsis (from

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she'll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There's just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia's task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor's reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh

M Y  T H O U G H T S

"A Tailor's worth is not measured by his fame, but by the happiness he brings." Spin the Dawn, pg 7

Spin the Dawn is the first book in The Blood of Stars duology. Maia Tamarin was born to become a tailor with a needle in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other. She follows the footsteps of her father who is also a tailor. Hailing from Gangsun, Maia wishes to become a master tailor yet tailors in Maia's world can only be male. Women can become seamstresses but not tailors. However, Maia seizes the opportunity to pursue her dreams in the disguise of a boy to compete to become the Imperial Tailor.

After the death of her mother, Maia's father struggled to continue tailoring as he used to. No longer is his sewing the same quality as before and Maia helps as much as possible to keep the shop going. After moving to the coastal town of Port Kamalan, loss has fallen upon her through her brothers.

Maia perseveres through the imperial tailoring challenges appeasing Lady Sarnai. However, Lady Sarnai asks for an almost impossible task that can cost Maia's life. Readers can expect the competition to be fierce and there is a lot of backstabbing and sabotage among the tailors. Things get complicated when enchanter Edan is made known to Maia. Magic is something that Maia once never believed in but she has a change of heart when she arrived at the palace and she learns she can wield a small amount of magic through a pair of scissors. However, Lady Sarnai despises magic while Emperor Khanujin relies on Edan's expertise. Elizabeth Lim weaves her own version of Jinn into Spin the Dawn which works well.

Although Maia is headstrong, her heart is in a good place. She wants to let everyone know that women can do the same things that men can do. She wants to help provide for her family. Edan, on the other hand, is mysterious. We don't know too much about his background or his past. He gravitates toward Maia and provides great wisdom. He is her helping hand despite how much Maia pushes him away. Fate entangles them in the long run and they grow to appreciate each other more. One can see that they grow very fond of each other.

Spin the Dawn has something for everyone. Whether people love reading about the competition or the journey to create three dresses of Amana, readers will enjoy the expedition and possibly the romance in the novel.

Lim created a mesmerizing Asian inspired fantasy world that fans of Mulan and folklore will adore. If you enjoy reading novels such as Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan and Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, I highly suggest picking up Spin the Dawn.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Title: The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication date: May 19, 2020
Pages: 517
Source/format: Hardcover//Purchased
Rating: ☆☆☆
Synopsis (from

Ambition will fuel him.
Competition will drive him.
But power has its price.

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined—every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute . . . and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

M Y  T H O U G H T S 

About one decade later, Suzanne Collins releases the prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy. And this prequel, The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes, is about President Coriolanus Snow when he was a teenager living in the Capitol. Yes, it may be hard to pity or sympathize with the cruel and cold tyrant but it's important to understand how he becomes the Snow he is in Katniss's world. The novel gives us much insight into how society and the environment shaped him to become President Snow.

It is interesting to read how much Snow suffered despite him living in the Capitol. However, unlike many of the Capitol citizens, his family is poor after losing their wealth during the war. With his parents gone, he becomes an orphan. He lives with his grandmother and with his cousin, Tigris. While trying to maintain the family status, becoming a mentor in The Hunger Games is his only opportunity to go to university. The winning tribute's mentor will receive the grand cash prize!

Snow is cunning, manipulative and can be cold at some times but The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes shows that Snow once had love in his heart. The only thing he had left to win people over was his charm. Over the years, his heart shriveled and blackened as he put himself over others. He is quite the Slytherin and will do anything to succeed. Perhaps what he endured during his time mentoring the games has changed him. The Capitol not only pits against the people of the districts but it also pits against the people of the Capitol. Dr. Gaul, who is the Gamemaker for the 10th Hunger Games, plays with the hearts and minds of tributes as well as with the mentors. She conducts tests regarding nature vs. nurture and it's quite disturbing.

There are a lot of parallels that I find captivating within the prequel and also The Hunger Games trilogy which contribute to the history of the Capitol and the origin of the games. This novel might not be for everyone but I highly suggest it if you would like to read more about the context of The Hunger Games and the life of Snow. If you enjoy reading or learning more about the villains of books and movies, pick up The Ballard of Songbird and Snakes when you have a chance. Find out where Snow's loyalties lie.

Warning, spoilers will be mentioned for the rest of the review. Please do not read further if you have not read the book.

As part of a project before graduating from the Academy, Snow becomes a mentor to one of the tributes in the 10th Hunger Games. And you guessed it that Snow became the mentor to no other than the girl tribute of District 12, who goes by Lucy Gray Baird. Snow actually gives Lucy Gray a white rose when he first meets her. We find out how meaningful the white rose is. Snow always had the white rose with him in The Hunger Games trilogy. This is symbolic and not the only way to disguise the smell reeking from his mouth after he poisons people. In fact, his family grew lots of roses when he was younger. Also, he poisons others to make sure no one gets ahead of him. Sounds much like how he gave his mother's compact to Lucy Gray and Lucy Gray hid rat poison in it to kill some tributes quite quickly. This is very similar to how Katniss and Peeta planned to commit double suicide with poisonous nightlock berries. Poison is a reoccurring theme within the series.

The Hunger Games' rules were not the same as the ones we know of today. Yes, there are 24 tributes for the 12 districts but the rules with the drones, sponsors, scoreboard, etc were not created prior to Snow's presence in the games. Snow and his classmates were the ones who came up with these great ideas. These ideas are what kept the games running and having people staying engaged to watch the games.

So Lucy Gray Baird and Katniss Everdeen are both from the Seam but they are very different. Lucy Gray is part of the Covey, which is a group of musicians who travels around place to place. They just happened to be stuck in District 12 at the time around war and post-war. In fact Lucy Gray sings The Hanging Tree song after an incident with a District 12 Man accidentally kills three. Do you remember that song that Katniss sings? Yes, we finally find out the origins of this song! While Katniss can be unlikable, Lucy Gray is the opposite. Everyone loves Lucy Gray! With Lucy Gray's singing and personality, she shines! However, Lucy Gray is witty and resourceful like Katniss. They take advantage of what they have in order to survive. Their knowledge and resources help them in the games. Their main priority is to stay alive while hiding. They waited for the other tributes to kill each other off before they had to kill.

Although The Ballard of Songbird and Snakes isn't The Hunger Games, the novel is a good origin story about The Hunger Games and it sheds more light on Snow's past which helps with his character development bridging from the 10th Hunger Games to the 74th/75th Hunger Games.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Novel Notes: What Am I Doing at Home Edition

Hi everyone. Yes, I am still here. However, I haven't been in a blogging and a reading slump ever since maybe March 12th. As of now, I am working remotely until further notice. I have been immersed in the world of Animal Crossing since I received the game on March 27th in the mail as a birthday present to myself. And boy can I say that it was the best thing I bought in a long time! Not only did I find out that a lot of my friends have Animal Crossing but I met so many people playing Animal Crossing in geeneral. I love how I can visit my friends or my friends can visit me while we social distance. It's pretty much the best thing since sliced bread! I love how you can play at your own pace. There are mini-goals you can set for yourself but there is no rush to do anything by a certain time frame. It's very relaxing. I needed this. I needed to get away from the chaos of the world. I needed something that didn't require a lot of brainpower. Animal Crossing was the key to let me unwind. If you are playing Animal Crossing, let me know in the comments.

I am ready to read and blog again. Sure it took me a couple of months to unwind a bit. I mean it's hard to take in some much news regarding the pandemic. There is a sense of uncertainty. For those who don't know, I live in Massachusetts which is one of the states that have the most cases of COVID-19. Some parts of the country are reopening and it's nervewracking to see how some people are treating the virus. It's actually pretty crazy on social media.

Staying home was hard at first but now it seems somewhat normal at the same time. I am glad it's May and we are having less rain lately. I love the sunshine. I have been cooking more often and even subscribed to a subscription box for food which I thought I would never do in a million years. If you need produce to be shipped to your house, check out Imperfect Foods, Hungry Harvest or Misfits Market. I subscribed to Imperfect Foods and I got my first box a couple of weeks ago. I am loving the full box of fresh produce. Imperfect Foods also lets customers add on dairy, meat, grains and other pantry items. You can choose weekly or biweekly boxes. What I love is that you can opt to skip a box if you have too much food to go through or if you are on vacation. I can say that my grocery shopping trips will drastically decrease now since I can rely on fresh produce being shipped to my home. If you need a referral code to save $10 on your box, here's the link.

Memorial weekend was a much-needed break from work. Even though I will be stuck inside for most of the time, I am hoping to enjoy the nice weather. Last year I was fortunate enough to travel to the Dominican Republic for a wedding and family trip. It was definitely an amazing time and I probably will flip through photos and watch some videos from the vacation. I don't regret any of the trips I went on in the past. With the pandemic, I am happy I traveled to the places I've traveled to whether it's for a wedding, for fun with my husband or even to a Harry Potter convention. Enjoy life. Enjoy the little things. Enjoy the big things. Just enjoy everything you are fortunate to have and the opportunities that are given to you. Don't take life for granted. Life can be short. Just remember to stay safe.

What have you been doing for the past couple of months? Have you read any good books, picked up a new hobby or found a new show to watch?

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova

Title: Incendiary
Author: Zoraida Córdova
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication date: April 28, 2020
Pages: 384
Source/format: e-ARC//publisher
Rating: ☆☆☆
Synopsis (from

I am Renata Convida.
I have lived a hundred stolen lives.
Now I live my own.

Renata Convida was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King's Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucia. As a Robari, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata's ability to steal memories from royal enemies enabled the King's Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people.

Now Renata is one of the Whispers, rebel spies working against the crown and helping the remaining Moria escape the kingdom bent on their destruction. The Whispers may have rescued Renata from the palace years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred--or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she turned "hollow" during her time in the palace.

When Dez, the commander of her unit, is taken captive by the notorious Sangrado Prince, Renata will do anything to save the boy whose love makes her place among the Whispers bearable. But a disastrous rescue attempt means Renata must return to the palace under cover and complete Dez's top secret mission. Can Renata convince her former captors that she remains loyal, even as she burns for vengeance against the brutal, enigmatic prince? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.

But returning to the palace stirs childhood memories long locked away. As Renata grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the entire fate of the kingdom--and end the war that has cost her everything.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Incendiary, which is the first book in the Hollow Crown series, starts off slowly. Renata is a Robari who has a special power to steal people's memories. She was kidnapped at a young age by the King's justice in order to harness her power and use it for the court's benefit. Renata eventually is able to escape the grasp of royalty and joins the radical movement as a Whisperer, one of the rebel spies working against the crown. The rebel spies seek to help Moria escape the kingdom. However, as a memory thief who leaves victims as a hollow shell once memories are stolen, people are wary to trust her. Justice Mendes and the Royal family of Selvina use Ren to dissolve magic users.

Zoraida Córdova immerses readers in a rich world with fantastic characters and an intricate story plotline. I would love to learn more about how the magic system works in this world and I hope to see more of the evolution of the magic system in future installments of the Hollow Crown series. Ren is in a difficult position where she can get killed fairly easily as she teeters on a thin line between helping the Crown or helping the Whisperers. Furthermore, when she has feelings for Dez, who is the leader of the Whispers, she needs to find where her alliance lies. This complex struggle of doing what is right looms throughout the novel and Ren needs to pave the path by herself.

Incendiary is about revenge, betrayal, figuring out who is trustworthy and fighting for your own rights. I cannot wait to see what the rest of the Hollow Crown series will bring.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Signs You’re a Book Lover

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and the meme moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. This week's Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers to list their top ten signs that we are book lovers. The following signs are in no particular order. 

1. Always checking Goodreads for information about frontlist, backlist and just released books. This is the social media platform for book lovers! 

2. Using the library for books I cannot afford to buy. Seriously, everyone needs to get a library now if they don't already have one. The library is a great resource not only for books. They also have access to computers, other types of media, discounted museum tickets, workshops, author events and much more!

3. Having accounts for Edelweiss and Netgalley to read the latest e-ARCs. The catalogs are ridiculously huge! There are so many titles to choose from and I love how you can read upcoming titles before the general public. 

4. Talking about books with friends in person or online, especially frontlist titles where you definitely don't want to spoil things on social media. 

5. Participating in buddy reads. It's always fun to chat with someone about the book while you are reading. 

6. Attending book events at local bookstores. I love supporting local bookstores. They're the best!

7. Speaking of bookstores, I love to visit bookstores when I travel. I also like checking out libraries when I travel as well. 

8. Comparing the film adaptation to the book. Some of them are great, some are so-so and some are just horrible.

9. Purchasing items such as candles, enamel pins, etc that are book fandom based.

10. Collecting special editions of books I love. Who else collects special editions of books?

Do we share similar signs that we are book lovers? If so, which ones?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Unprecedented Times

I know everyone in the whole world is facing a lot of unknowns and things that are increasing our anxiety. I wanted to let everyone know that I am still here even though my blog posts have been sporadic.  Here are some things you can do to help keep your mind off uncertainties and the craziness of the world.

Talking a walk (if your state/country allows it) - getting some sunlight not only boosts your spirits but you get a nice fresh breath of air and you can get some Vitamin D. Pokemon Go or Wizards Unite anyone? Just remember the 6 feet distance away from people rule. 

Reading a book - By reading you can escape to the depths of another world. Immerse yourself into a fantasy, horror, contemporary, thriller, sci-fi or even a non-fiction novel. There is a book for everyone. Try an audiobook if it's hard to focus reading. Libraries are providing many free digitally recourses like free e-books and audiobooks to borrow from. All you need is a library card. Check out Libby and  Hoopla. 

Playing video games - Discover new worlds through a video game. I am partial to playing Pokemon, Fantasy Life and Kirby but I am waiting for my copy of the latest Animal Crossing to arrive.

Playing board games - Tabletop gaming with your household is a fun way to interact with others and to bond. Play a favorite or try a new one. There are so many to choose from. 

Video conferencing - Meeting with friends and family virtually will help you stay connected with people face to face even if you cannot visit them physically. Many companies have lifted some pro capabilities. Check out Google Hangouts, Skype, Facebook video chat and Zoom. 

Online messaging - You can also stay connected with people online via various messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, DMing/PMing on Twitter or Instagram, or using Discord, Line, WeChat, WhatsApp, etc.

Crafting - Why not pick up a new crafting project or even a new hobby? I am hoping to start needle felting and learning how to do lettering sometime soon.

Cooking and baking - Stuck at home and you need to eat? Why not try a new recipe? Hone your cooking and baking skills while trying something new. Open up your palette to new dishes.

Watching TV - Whether it be movies or shows on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, regular TV, etc., enjoy a new movie or binge watch some episodes of a new series. Netflix has a Netflix Party mode where you can watch a movie or episode with other people remotely.

Cleaning - It's that time for spring cleaning, at least here where I am located. This is a good time to declutter your home space. With many people working remotely, help create a more ideal work and living space.

Deep breathing and mediation - Find those anxious parts of you and attend to your mental health needs. Take deep breaths, meditate, do yoga, listen to calming music. Apps like Headspace and Calm might be helpful

Listen to music - Music transports your mind and feelings to another place that is different from a visual mode. Jam out to your favorites, reminisce nostalgia or discover some new tunes.

Learn a new language - Always wanted to learn a new language? This is the best time to do it. There are lots of videos online and apps like Duolingo.

Just remember what Dumbledore mentioned in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, "Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." We all can find a silver lining. We can find that sliver of sunlight amongst the darkest cloud. We will get through these dark times. We just need to be patient and we need to work together. Just like in the Battle of Hogwarts, we must work as a team in order for good to prevail for everyone.

Image from Pinterest

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Title: Harley in the Sky
Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: March 10, 2020
Pages: 416
Source/format: e-ARC//Publisher
Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Synopsis (from

 Harley Milano has dreamed of being a trapeze artist for as long as she can remember. With parents who run a famous circus in Las Vegas, she spends almost every night in the big top watching their lead aerialist perform, wishing with all her soul that she could be up there herself one day.

After a huge fight with her parents, who continue to insist she go to school instead, Harley leaves home, betrays her family and joins the rival traveling circus Maison du Mystère. There, she is thrust into a world that is both brutal and beautiful, where she learns the value of hard work, passion and collaboration. But at the same time, Harley must come to terms with the truth of her family and her past—and reckon with the sacrifices she made and the people she hurt in order to follow her dreams.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

"I love the circus. I love the mystery, and the wonder, and the way every act transports my soul into another dimension. I love the way it makes me feel as if the world is in reverse and upside down all at once--like there's starlight beneath my feet and the ocean above my head, and every impossible dream can come true with a single whisper." - e-ARC, Harley in the Sky

Eighteen-year-old Harley works at her parents' circus but they into a disagreement about Harley's career goals and future. Harley wants to be an aerialist but her parents want her to go to college. Harley, feeling betrayed, ends up ditching her parents' circus for another circus. Harley does not run away to any circus but she runs off to a rival circus, Maison du Mystère. Harley wants to harness herself to become the best she can be and she feels like her parents are stopping her from reaching her full potential. However, quickly learns that working at a circus is hard work. It's not all about magic and love. Harley learns that there are people that can make her dream as an aerialist difficult at Maison du Mystère. She wants to learn but not everyone supports her. Some people actually see her as a threat. One particular aerialist feels threatened by Harley and is not super welcoming or helpful at all.

Akemi Dawn Bowman shows Harley's internal struggle with mental health issues as well as Harley's struggle to do what is best for her despite what her parents think. She is bi-racial and never quite feels like she knows where she belongs. Vivien, Dexi and Vas definitely have good relationships with Harley and I would love to read more about them. Bowman writes poignant novels with a strong plot and character development. Readers will feel emotionally invested when they read Bowman's novels.

Harley in the Sky is about self-exploration; it's about exploring who you are but staying true to yourself at the same time. It's about self-acceptance and following your dreams and figuring how to navigate internal struggles. I highly recommend this book if you love reading about circuses and self-discovery. 

Friday, February 14, 2020

Best Swoon-worthy Contemporary Reads

It's that time of year full of hearts, roses and everything pink and red. Valentine's Day! Whether you love it or despise it, check out these cute contemporary reads! This is the perfect month to dive into these wonderful novels that I adore!

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch is a great read if you want to explore Italy with Lina where she reconnects with her father and Lina relives her mom's memories through her mom's journal. This book is about self-discovery and love in another country. Check out the companion novel, Love & Luck and upcoming Love & Olives.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before trilogy by Jenny Han is one of my favorites! When five love letters get sent in the mail, Lara Jean is mortified. However, this sets the plot where readers will follow Lara Jean in a fake relationship with Peter. With a signed contract, Lara Jean and Peter are trying to make Josh and Gen jealous but Lara Jean and Peter end up falling for each other. I won't spoil the rest of the other books but let's say there is another guy who received a love letter that takes on a larger role in P.S. I Still Love You. And while you are at it, after reading the books, check out To All the Boys I've Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You on Netflix!

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins takes place in a boarding school in Paris. What is there not to love about reading a book set in Paris, the City of Light? Anna befriends Étienne St. Clair and is smitten with him at first sight but unfortunately, he has a girlfriend. Let's just say there is a lot of relationship drama in this novel. Check out Perkins's companion novels, Lola and the Boy Next Door (my favorite out of the three) and also Isla and the Happily Ever After.

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord is definitely one of the best slow-burning romances in a contemporary that I adore. Paige and Max meet over Quiz Bowl and they are so meant to be together. Lord also includes strong female friendships within the novel which is empowering. They have each other's back which I like since there are so many books out there with girls being catty. I absolutely adored this book and I hope you do too. Check out Lord's When We Collided and The Map From Here to There.

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum starts off with Jessie moving from Chicago to Los Angeles and attending a new school during her Junior year. Her mother passed away and her father eloped with another woman. Jessie misses her old home and school and is having hard time navigating her new life. However, someone anonymously messages her as Somebody/Nobody, SN for short, who ends up helping her with the transition. Who is this SN mystery guy? Well pick up this novel to find out! Check Buxbaum's What to Say Next and upcoming Admission.

The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder is about Pen who is a romantic waiting to fall in love. She explores and talks about multiple types of heartbreak one goes through. However, she doesn't realize that sometimes love can be right in front of her in the least expected places. Check out Leder's Letting Go of Gravity as well.

The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee is about a girl named Mim who wants to experience life as a teenager but because she is from a family of aromateurs, it is her duty to carry on the legacy. Aromateurs are not allowed to love and there are strict rules she needs to abide by according to her mother. Of course, when rules are made, rules are sometimes broken and Mim finds Court who she is smitten with.

by Sandhya Menon is a rom-com where Dimple and Rishi meet at a summer program. Their first meeting together is far from perfect but they grow to be fond of each other by the end of the book. This book explores cultural identity, tradition, STEM fields, and female empowerment. Check out Menon's other novels such as From Twinkle, With Love, There's Something About Sweetie and upcoming 10 Things I Hate About Pinky.

Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli is about Simon who ends up falling for his e-mail pen pal friend named Blue. However, Martin threatens to blackmail him outing Simon if Simon doesn't introduce Martin to Simon's friend Abby. I love the conversation between Simon and Blue and the reveal of Blue at the end of the book is too cute! Definitely watch the film adaptation of the book after reading this novel. Check out Albertalli's other novels including The Upside of Unrequited and Leah on the Offbeat. She also co-wrote What If It's Us with Adam Silvera.
by Mary H.K. Choi is about Penny who is headed to college and has a boyfriend who hardly knows her. Sam works at a cafe and is struggling financially and emotionally. Penny realizes she is falling for Sam after they become each other's emergency contacts and they both end up relying on each other. This meet-cute novel is perfect for fans of Fangirl. Check out Choi's Permanent Record.

American Panda by Gloria Chao is about Mei who currently attends MIT to become a doctor despite her being a germaphobe. She is giving in to what her parents want for her even though her passion lies within dancing. When Mei is interested in a non-Taiwanese guy, her parents are definitely not happy. Mei tries to find a balance between living up to traditional cultural expectations and living her life to the fullest. Check out Chao's Our Wayward Fate and upcoming Rent a Boyfriend.