The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

I saw a lot of buzz from this book on booktube last year and then I read Flame in the Mist and felt like I had to read this series because I really liked Ahdieh’s writing, so I was preemptively excited. And whilst it didn’t quite live up to the hype this was still an enjoyable read.

content warning: whilst I wouldn’t consider their sexual relationship as rape, it could be trigger if you are a victim of sexual abuse, death, uhhhh I’ve forgotten what else there is but if you’re interested and have a trigger, message me and I’ll look into it for you!

Every time the Caliph, Khalid, takes a new wife she is found dead the next morning. Shazi decides that she will be the next bride after her best friend is killed, in a move that she plans to use to take vengeance. To put off getting killed Shazi tells the Caliph a story every night. But there is more than meets the eye with Khalid and slowly Shazi begins to discover that he isn’t the murderous brute she believed him to be.

The best part of this for me is the world building and the writing. The writing itself isn’t poetic, flowery or anything like that, it’s pretty to the point but it was sooo easy to read, and I read it so quickly that I had to read the novellas and take the second book out from the library immediately. The characters are super fleshed out as well. Shazi is a kickass lead who I loved reading from, Khalid is super dark and interesting and whilst I’m mixed about how I feel about him as a romantic leadI loved reading about him and his inner turmoils. I also just loved Jalal, he’s the perfect side character, who cares about the good of everyone involved.

I honestly don’t know how to explain my feelings about the romance in this book. It could be described as insta-love as it happens over the span of a few weeks, but because there is so much happening it feels like longer. On top of all that you have the weird way they have entered the relationship, knowing full well that every woman he has married has died. They have sex a few times before romance even happens, and for both of them it’s very much like procedural, they do it because they feel like they have to, it’s never romanticised at this point. There’s even a point where he asks if she wants to have sex and she’s like “we’ve done it before”, but he still asks. I just have very confused feelings. I was very wary of the sexual relationship before the romantic relationship that I have flagged every time they had sex prior to beginning to like each other, so again if you need warnings or anything let me know and I’ll read over these pages to make sure what’s involved.

One thing I would say is that if the story this is based on is a story you grew up knowing you might not want to read this as Fadwa told me that it’s changed a lot from the original story and what she’d heard about it she didn’t like so just bear that in mind.

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The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton | Blog Tour | Review

Synopsis

In the opulent world of Orléans, the people are born grey and damned, and only a Belle’s powers can make them beautiful. Camellia Beauregard wants to be the favourite Belle – the one chosen by the queen to tend to the royal family.

But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favourite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that her powers may be far greater – and far darker – than she ever imagined.

THE BELLES is the book Dhonielle always wanted to write, a must-read critique of the way teenage girls are taught to think about beauty and body image.

Review

CW: death, people disillusioned with their own looks, mental illness.

I really enjoyed this book. The writing style fits perfectly, a lot of the time I struggle with fantasy because the writing style is too heavy, which is fine if you have the time for it, but I don’t. This isn’t full of flowery language or huge off-shooting paragraphs, it’s straight and to the point and I loved it.

Clayton writes the novel in a way that to begin with you’re a bit confused but she slowly lets you into the world until you completely understand what it’s about and what’s going on without having a big explanation chapter or being taken out from the story to be explained to. My one problem came from this though as I felt that because of the way it was done, the pacing struggled a bit. The last half of the novel was super fast paced but the beginning didn’t have much going on. However I feel like this makes it a really good first novel in a series, I think the next book is going to be super involved and have a lot going on.

The way Clayton wrote the world I am desperate to read more about it. I want to know more about the Belles, I want to find out how the world got to be the way it is, I want to know why people are born grey and discovered how Belles and Arcana existed.

I liked Camille enough, despite growing up in an oppressive environment where you are supposed to do just what you are told she goes against the grain. The character I loved the most, however, was Sophia, she was terrifying. She’s one of the most convincing villains I’ve read in a while. She’s only a teenager but she’s so unbalanced that you literally have no idea what she’s going to do next and it’s actually really scary.

Something else that stood out to me in this novel was how seamlessly LGBT+ characters were in it. People just spoke completely off the cuff about same sex relationships. This shouldn’t be a big thing, but for fantasy this is rare and it made me happy to see that in my favourite genre.

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Thank you to Stevie Finnegan for arranging the tour!

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Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

Princess Rhiannon Ta’an is about to become the Empress, but the night before her coronation someone tries to assassinate her. The rest of the world thinks she is dead but knowing her life is in danger she goes into hiding letting the world continue to think this as she figures out who tried to kill her. Alyosha is framed for the murder and also has to go on the run.

I really liked the dual POVs, we all know that multiple POVs can sometimes not work out and you end up hating on of them but this wasn’t the case with this book. Both characters were good to read from and Belleza wrote the chapters really well that every time the POV switched it was on a cliffhanger so you couldn’t put it down. It made the reading experience really fun.

The book is short-ish. I’m used to books of this genre being long, sometimes unnecessarily. Even though it is short it doesn’t feel like it, like it doesn’t feel like it’s going super fast and skipping details and it felt like it told the story it needed to tell and didn’t draw anything out.

This book is diverse and so well built. The cultures are super well constructed, there’s religion, different planets, different politics.

For a debut novel I’m impressed and I’m excited to read the sequel and see how Belleza’s writing progresses.

I really did like this novel and it did live up to the hype. It wasn’t a favourite and I think that’s just because it didn’t have that wow factor that I need from a fantasy/sci-fi Book.

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Mini Reviews #4

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Glutton for Pleasure by Alisha Rai

This is a polyamorous book with chubby Indian representation. I liked the idea of this book and the book itself is good for the most part, however I did occasionally find the twins awkward to read and I sometimes felt uncomfortable by it. This is possibly because the were twins but I don’t know.

 

 

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The Melody of You and Me by M. Hollis

This is a short and sweet sapphic book that if you’re looking to read something f/f could warm you up. I have to say thought, I read this sometime ago and can’t much remember it, but I did enjoy it.

 

 

 

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Team Phison by Chace Verity

You know I love modern romances and this one springs from a video game multiplayer. It’s age gap m/m, and quite funny and sweet. I enjoyed this one and if you’re in a romance mood I recommend it.

 

 

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Prom Queen Perfect by Clarisse David

Ah this one was so adorable, hate to love of some kids who grew up together, starring a queen bee, as opposed to an unpopular person. Super sweet and has some Filipino representation.

 

 

 

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Long Macchiatos and Monsters by Alison Evans

This is 2 trans people with chronic pain falling for each other, and it’s kind of heart breaking but kind of lovely at the same time. I wasn’t really sure about the characters to be honest but I think it’s an incredibly important book that can help people who are trans with chronic pain in finding someone they can relate to in a book.

 

 

 

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Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler

This was really sweet and I’m excited to read the rest of the series as there is some pansexual representation in the third book. I really loved the relationship with a teaching assistant as it doesn’t have the power imbalance that dating a professor does but it’s similar in the trope context, and personally makes me more comfortable considering how old some professors are. And the MCs brothers were absolutely adorable.

 

 

 

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Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Content warning: abuse, implied rape, death, weird ghost stuff, animal abuse, ableism

Thank you to netgalley and Tor for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A boy can feel a presence in his house, and then he sees the spirit of his father. Weird things start to happen that shouldn’t be happening. This is a Native American horror story and it truly freaked me out so it’s best not to know too much about it.

I don’t really know how to go about writing this review. I am not one for horror, because often I think it’s just a silly plot or it’s just not scary, but this was. I had a feeling this would get me because if anyone can write scary spirit stories it’s Native Americans (besides Eastern Asians whew I don’t want to talk about some of that). I had to put this down a few times because I just felt stressed out generally a bit wigged out to be honest, and that’s exactly what I want in a horror novel.

The entirety of the novel is so ingrained in being a NA story and that’s wonderful. It talks about NA spirits, NA myths and legends and growing up Native in a country run by people that tried to completely eradicate your race. But I think, now I can’t speak for he rep being white, that this novel is what NA kids would love. Jones himself is Native American so I’m pretty sure the representation is going to speak to at least some people.

I know you’re probably looking at that list of content warnings and thinking “uh that’s a lot” and it is. There’s so much awful stuff in this book for SUCH a short novel, but it’s challenged on page and never shown in a good light. But if you have any triggers be wary because it’s really affecting.

I think if I’m in the mood for it I will happily read more from Jones because his writing is incredible, the way he wrote really fit with exactly the feeling he was trying to portray.

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Truth or Dare by Non Pratt – Interesting concept, not sure about the representation.

This was a really interesting book. It’s one of those books that’s kind of not really had a lot of buzz, so I didn’t know what I was going to get going into this.

Content warnings for: neurodisability, thrill seeking, sexual harassment, ace/aro-phobia, mental health problems, racism.

This is a book split in 2 halves, 1 side you read completely from Claire’s POV then it switches to Sef’s before alternating for the end.

The best friend of the main character is ace! She also then clarifies that she is also aro later on and I had no idea before going in and I was so pleasantly surprised. There is little to no representation of people who are ace/aro in books. I am pansexual/romantic so I am not the person to speak about the representation but I found this review on GR from someone who is own voices. I’m in 2 minds about the fact that it’s the side character rather than the main character, I wish there was more of a focus on representation in books but I also feel like sometimes it’s better for that to be more in the background so that it just slowly gets embedded into normal thinking. But, like I said, I can’t really speak on it. But for me I felt the representation was really good as it differentiated between ace and aro and it kind of subtly taught the reader about what that means. If you are ace or aro or both and feel like it wasn’t good representation please let me know and I will link to your review!

There was also representation as Sef is British Pakistani, but I really wasn’t sure about the representation. This review I found from Kamalia talks about their wish for the representation to be less westernised and I can 100% see why they were let down in that respect, but I’m also aware of many 2nd/3rd/4th generation Pakistani people living in the UK who have taken on board a lot of British traditions etc. But again I am white, I can’t speak on it.

I honestly just didn’t really like Sef, he reminded me a lot of the boys I went to school with who would be one person in private then a complete jerk with friends. I am very aware that he had a lot to deal with so I can’t fault him because we all deal with stuff in or own ways. From working with teenagers for my placement it’s become even more apparent to me. I think that’s one thing this book did deal with really well, was showing just the general life struggles that so many teens go through on a day to day basis. I felt that in that respect it was pretty realistic.

There is a lot of sexual harassment in this novel, and it’s shown in a negative light as well it should be, but it kind of reminded me of my experiences as a kid in high school of the things that felt like nothing at the time that now thinking back on I realise could be considered sexual harassment. Kids are absolutely awful to each other and I think this showed that better than a lot of novels have done, as many just show run of the mill slut shaming or boys being mean to girls. This book really went deep into how conniving teens can really be.

I read this book pretty quickly, it was paced well and felt super easy to get through and for the most part I enjoyed what I was ready. There were a few scenes that made me uncomfortable but that was on purpose.

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Sanctuary by Rebekah Weatherspoon – There’s 5 Dogs That’s All You Need to Know

Thank you Rebekah Weatherspoon for sending me a copy of this book! CW for violence, death, and bdsm sex scenes.

So if you haven’t read a Rebekah Weatherspoon book by now or at least added one to your TBR what the heck are you playing at? Her books are incredible.

After being attacked by a former client Liz needs to go into hiding for fear of her life. So she goes to upstate New York to stay on a farm with her coworkers brother, Silas, who is a huge grump. But he has 5 dogs, so it’s not all bad.

So the romance is so good. If you like hate to love/fake dating this is 100% for you, especially if you like some really heavy sex scenes. Liz is a dominant which is just great, it’s not often you find female doms in books. There’s so much discussion about it as well between the pair of them, like their comfort levels and how far they want to go. I just was so happy reading it because it’s so good to see on page discussion of kinks and stuff. It fills my heart with joy.

One thing that I was really so happy about is that Silas is half Scottish and Rebekah actually seemed to do her research for Scottish stuff. Like she used the correct form of whisky. If a whisky is made in Scotland it doesn’t have an e in it. And it drives me absolutely mad when people write it with the e. The other half of Silas’ heritage is polynesian, which was super cool to read. Liz is black as well so it’s just got some good representation all around. There’s some on the page talk of what it’s like to deal with assault as a black woman, versus how it would be if she was white.

There’s some inputs from Liz’s friends, who are all such sweet women and I’m SO HERE for positive female friendships. One of Liz’s friends is our heroine from the last Beards & Bondage novel and it was nice to read about them.

I’m really excited to read whatever Rebekah comes out with next because I’m always going to jump at the chance to read it and so should you!

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Like Water by Rebecca Podos

Thank you to edelweiss and Harper Collins for sending a me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Vanni had always planned to leave her small home town that everyone else gets stuck in, but then her dad get’s diagnosed with Huntington’s, which can be passed to the next generation. So her fear of also being diagnosed stalls her in her plans so she spends her summer working at a water park and flirting around with different people.

So I really liked the exploration of being bisexual in teenagers and whilst the MC does eventually identify as being bi, I really liked that for a while there is a lot of talk of fluidity and a lot of it just kind of happens. Which felt really realistic to me, because it is such a complicated thing to go through. And I liked that it was in a majorly hispanic community as I feel like the majority of novels I’ve read with a bi MC have been very white and it was refreshing to read from another point of view.

As well as there being bisexual representation there is also a character who struggles with their gender identity, and as I am cis myself I didn’t really pick up on it properly until the end, but I think people who themselves have struggled with it would pick up on it much earlier. When I realised it was very much like “oh yeah of course”. I tried to hunt to see if any genderqueer people had reviewed it on goodreads but came up blank, and obviously I’m not going to ask people what they identify as for sake of a review. But yeah I’m cis so I can’t say if the rep is good but it felt good.

As with the genderqueer rep, I don’t have Huntington’s so I couldn’t tell you if it deals with that well but I really appreciated that it was part of the novel. It’s not a well talked about disease and it’s not as famous as things like MS.

I think the one thing that made this read not a favourite was just that I didn’t find any of the characters particularly likeable. And when I say that I don’t mean like they were all awful people and I hated reading them. They’re well developed characters and have their own driving forces. I just got annoyed with them a lot, but hey teenagers can be pretty annoying so they definitely felt realistic.

I think if you’re looking for a diverse summer contemporary with a wide range of issues this is the book for you.

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The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

This is one of the most fun books I’ve read all year. Thank you to netgalley and Abrams Kids for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Genie is focussing on getting into college until the new kid in school, Quentin, starts telling her all these wild tales about how she’s actually a powerful mythological entity. Of course Genie is very hesitant to believe him, but soon demons start popping up and she’s pretty much forced to realise Quentin isn’t lying.

The thing that really stood out about this book was how unapologetic it was about its Chinese influence. It’s entirely based on Chinese mythology so I think it’s the kind of book Chinese readers have been waiting for for a long time. But it never feels inaccessible, not that there’s anything wrong with books that are because some books are written specifically for people of a certain grouping to read and not for everyone and that’s ok, as a white reader who doesn’t really know much about Chinese mythology this was so easy to read. It was understandable and funny and explained background really well without feeling like as a reader I was being taught.

Genie is such a bomb character. She kicks butts of these hugely powerful demons between going to class and preparing for college.

Yes this book is a bit sill but that’s the whole point. It never takes itself too seriously, I mean how serious can you get with kids fighting demons in their school uniforms. In that respect it reminded me a whole lot of Sailor Moon.

I loved that this was set in the Bay Area because it made some of the more ridiculous moments of the novel even funnier. You have the image of these school kids beating up huge demons all with this metropolitan American city by the sea as the backdrop.

If you haven’t added this book to your TBR please do so because it’s one of the better books I’ve read this year.

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Cyclone series by Courtney Milan

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Trade Me

So this has fake relationship in it and talks about what it is to be privileged. It also discusses addiction, eating disorders and stress.

Our MC is a Chinese American girl with a background of human rights issues in China as her parents fleed China to get way from incarceration which is true for many Chinese people who immigrated to America and the like. She deals with a lot of poverty and I really loved reading that because hey it’s good to read that in novels its good not to have the perfect life for the MC, obviously it’s not good that the character is in that position but it’s life. She made most of her decisions based on her background and the poverty she was in.

A character in this novel deals with a restrictive eating disorder and as I was super close to developing one a few years ago this was really important to me to read as it’s one of the lesser known EDs. But of course I’m going to say that if you have an ED trigger be careful with this book.

 

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Hold Me

First things first, this book has a trans girl MC, which is few and far between in any genre, especially in romance. As well as that it has the hate to love trope which I always adore.

Now I can’t say whether it was accurate trans rep and I tried to see if I could find some reviews by the trans reviewing community but couldn’t find any, if you have written one or aware of any please let me know!

He’s Chinese Thai with a buddhist parent and Muslim parent and he’s bi and that isn’t glossed over he talks about past affairs with both men and women. She’s latinx and into science which you know I love my STEM girls as one myself.

Some people didn’t like how childish the main characters were with each other in the beginning but I loved it and found it hilarious. And if you’re really up for some diverse romance I recommend both novels in this series. You don’t need to read Trade Me first if you’re more interested in this one but it sets the scene.

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