Top Ten Tuesday | Books On My Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018!

And full disclosure, when you guys are reading this, I am totally at Huntington Beach in California right now, hopefully drinking and reading something good, while listening and looking at the Pacific Ocean! So, I’m so sorry if I don’t respond back right away! But I promise to make it up to you guys next week when I get back to home and reality! And I hope all of you like getting a sneak peak at my Spring 2018 TBR! 🌸💗

1.) A Court of Frost and Starlight (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3.1) by Sarah J. Maas

May 1st, 2018 by Bloomsbury
You all better get ready to see this on every single person’s T10T, let’s be real. Wild horses couldn’t pull me away from this book. I am so excited for the contents of this book, but I’m also just so excited to see where the series is going to go. Or more importantly, who the next series is going to star. *lips on mic* It better be Cassian and Nesta!

2.) LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff

May 29th, 2018 by Knopf Books
I actually just received an ARC of this, so this is without a doubt going on my Spring TBR, but I actually have already scheduled a buddy read with a very gorgeous lady (inside and out) the first week of April! So, be on the lookout! Also, this is the newest thing to come from Jay Kristoff, and you all know how much I adore him and his writing. I have the highest of hopes, even with 1337 in the title.

3.) Legendary (Caraval #2) by Stephanie Garber

May 29th, 2018 by Flatiron
You all, I was one of about five people who walk this Earth and really loved Caraval. So, hi, hello, my name is Melanie, and I promise a couple people did like the first book to this! Haha! But for real, I’m going into this a little hesitantly, because I am not sure I’m going to enjoy this main protagonist, but I’m still 100% invested in this world, and I can’t wait to give this second book a try!

4.) Ash Princess (Ash Princess Trilogy #1) by Laura Sebastian

April 24th, 2018 by Delacorte Books
Okay, this is another ARC I do have, but I can’t believe I haven’t picked it up yet! My blog tour is scheduled for the 13th, so I am going to get to this one VERY soon! And I hear it is super dark and twisted, and you all know I’m here for that!

5.) Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

April 24th, 2018 by Wednesday Books
Okay, now I just sound like a broken record, but I also have an ARC for this one! But this one is getting quite the mixed reviews, so I won’t lie, I’m a little apprehensive! But I’m always here for warrior girls, and look at this cover? Lord, my aesthetic.

6.) Song of Blood & Stone (Earthsinger Chronicles #1) by L. Penelope

May 1st, 2018 by St. Martin’s Press
This is an ownvoices book with a black main character who has healing powers! The synopsis says it is very reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, and I’m all about that forbidden love, especially set in a fantasy world! I do also have an ARC of this, and I’m buddy reading it with my friend Julie come Easter! We both have the highest of hopes!

7.) Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

May 15th, 2018 by HMH Books
It is almost blasphemy that I haven’t read anything by AHB yet in my life. But give me all the Sapphic books, please. Also, so many of my friends whom I love dearly absolutely love this author and all of her work. I can’t wait to finally read something by them!

8.) The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

June 5th, 2018 by Balzer + Bray
This is a brand new young adult fantasy, from a debut author! I love supporting debut authors, and this book looked exceptionally appealing, so I couldn’t resist also receiving an ARC of it! But the synopsis says this is a book all about death and riddles and that sounds pretty damn intriguing, if I do say so myself!

9.) A Scandalous Deal (The Four Hundred #2) by Joanna Shupe

April 24th, 2018 by Avon
You all, I have been craving a good historical romance for some time now. So, my fingers just completely took over and requested an ARC of this book and purchased book one of the series! I haven’t read a historical romance since last summer, and my body is beyond ready. Hopefully this and book one will be everything that I’m looking for! And totally let me know if you’ve read book one in this series!

10.) Circe by Madeline Miller

April 10th, 2018 by Little, Brown and Co
Okay, so this one I feel a little bad putting on here, just because I’m going to start it on the 23rd! But like… Spring starts today, so I’m not breaking any rules here! But yeah, if you guys know me at all, or have visited my blog before, you probably know that I love all things that have to do with the Odyssey and the Iliad. This is probably my second most anticipated release of the year, and just thinking about it brings me pure happiness. I am so ready to read about my favorite witch of all time.

Okay, friends, I hope you enjoyed! I hope you’re having a wonderful week and an even more amazing start to Spring! Again, I’m so sorry if I do not respond right away, but I promise I will once I’m home or once I have a little more free-time and a lot more internet! I love you all, and, as always, I’m wishing you the happiest of reading! 🌻💛

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The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion (Danielle Cain #1) by Margaret Killjoy

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ARC provided by Tor in exchange for an honest review.

“The revolution is about taking power away from the oppressors, not becoming them ourselves.”

Friends, pick up this so underhyped, yet so deserving of more hype, novella. I am blown away. Within 100 pages, this book was able to create a beautifully diverse cast, talk about some pretty important issues, showcases a homeless main character, show the beauty of unconditional-loving found families, and it even gave me some pretty gothic spooky animals. This was amazing, and I think truly believe so many of my book friends would love it.

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion follows Danielle Cain entering a new town of squatters, who have turned this little town in Iowa into something so damn special. In Freedom, Iowa these people have come together and created a community that truly believes in helping everyone and making sure everyone is treated equally and equally giving and taking from the community. Danielle is twenty-eight and has been moving from place to place for the last ten years. But Danielle sought-after this town specifically, because it was the last place her best friend lived before committing suicide.

“No cops, no bosses, no landlords. No poverty. No laws. Hard work and community and freedom and all the shit that we ought to have.”

And right off the bat, when Danielle meets Vulture, he asks her which pronouns she prefers, and then tells Danielle which pronouns he uses. It was so easy, but so important, and I wish we lived in a world where this was the standard when meeting someone. And it started the book off in such a great way for me.

Yet, on the first day Danielle comes to town, a man dies, pretty brutally, from a monster deer demon, named Uliksi, that was summoned to kill anyone in the town that tries to gain power over anyone. Yeah, you read that sentence right. And this tale quickly turns into a mystery of if Uliksi has turned against the town, or if this mystical deer is still only after those who have committed evil acts.

“Uliksi hunts the vengeful, the hateful. As Clay put it, Uliksi hunts those who wield power over others.”

These 100 pages hold such a magical story, but like I said above, they also hold such important themes and discussions. This book talks about the importance of pronouns. This book has an almost full queer cast, with a lot of racial diversity, too. Then, there are discussions to be had about how we live in the most powerful country in the world, but we give some citizens nothing, and others everything. And at the heart of this novella, it is a book about power imbalances, and how people misuse that power for the good of only themselves. Different power dynamics are always at the forefront of this book. Danielle has a panic attack in this book, and it is written exactly how mine feel. This was probably the most accurate description to my personal feelings when having (and starting) one, that I’ve ever read. Also, this book starts by Danielle wanting to go to the last lived in town of her best friend who killed themselves. And there is absolutely no suicide shaming in this book. There is a part where someone asks Danielle if she is upset and she says something like, “only at the world” and I was weeping. Perfection.

“We do good things too, but you don’t get props for not hurting people.”

Trigger/Content Warnings: mention of suicide, mention of rape, animal death, death of a friend/loved one, abuse, violence, and gore. Also, just in case I did a sub-par job at explaining it: this is a horror novel, so it’s a tad bit on the spooky side, so use caution.

“For the past year, we’ve had this benevolent, murderous spirit watching over us. Which is weird, but it’s gone fine.”

This is such a unique story too, because even though it is set in modern day times, with Instagram, the internet, and iPhones, it still feels and reads dystopian. But I loved this, I loved the aesthetic, I loved every emotion this short book was able to evoke from me. This was nothing short of a treat to read. Also, give me all the books about summoning demons, especially monster deer. Thanks.

Danielle finds herself trusting strangers and entering this beautiful found family who truly cares about the members, even though society has turned their backs on them. From witch’s huts, to towns built on trust, to undead animals, to secret notes left in books, I fell in love with this story. And I loved Danielle, but these side characters? Vulture, Thursday, Doomsday, and Brynn have all carved out a special place in my heart and I can’t wait to read more about them and their adventures in The Barrow Will Send What it May! Also, nothing warmed my heart more than Vulture and his Instagram! But please stop sleeping on this book and give this important and wonderful little book a try! I promise, you won’t regret it.

“There’s only a small handful of things in this world that make me happy, and coffee is one of them.”

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Buddy read with Destiny at Howling Libraries! ❤

The Heart Forger (The Bone Witch, #2) by Rin Chupeco

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ARC provided by Sourcebooks in exchange for an honest review.

1.) The Bone Witch ★★★★

“I suppose the trouble began again when I tried raising a king from the dead.”

This series means so much to me. I loved The Bone Witch so much, but The Heart Forger is now in a tier by itself. This is the type of book that makes you wish there were more than fives stars, because it just feels like it deserves something more. It was glorious perfection, and Tea is my favorite necromancer of all time. And Rin Chupeco is a master storyteller.

“She wore the corpses for show. They trailed behind her, grotesque fabrics of writhing flesh and bone, spreading across the plain for miles around us.”

This is an ownvoices, Asian inspired, fantasy story that stars a young necromancer, looking for her place in a world that has constantly told her she is going to become evil. This story is told in two parts, but not equally. The lesser part, before every new chapter, are the events taking place through a bard’s eyes, who is chronicling the events currently, where Tea is proving to become the evil villain the world wanted her to be. But the main story is told in the past, and we get to slowly find out what happened to put Tea on this path that the bard is seeing.

“What’s one more lie to believe when I am just a scheming, murderous bone witch, constantly seeking stars beyond her reach?”

One of the more unique and cool aspects of this world, is that all the people wear heartglasses around their necks. Your heartglass will change colors depending on what you’re feeling but will overall stay mostly the same color. Yet, silver means you draw runes, which means you can fight, whether it be as an asha if you’re a girl or as a solider if you’re a boy. Silver heartglasses are so very important and are so very sought after.

Other ashas control elements: fire, earth, water, wind. But Tea is a bone witch, AKA: a dark asha, and she deals in death. Bone witches are not very respected in this world, even though their powers hold the most important job in this world, because they are the only ones who can defeat Daeva, AKA: different demons who dwell in this world, who are resurrected every so often. Also, bone witches are incredibly rare, but they seem to not live long.

“…black heartsglass is the ultimate fate of bone witches like us, Tea. Dark asha do not live long lives. But when they do, it is only a matter of time before their hearts become corrupted.”

This book places a big emphasis on gender roles and the way the world also forces us to conform to them. A side character, is constantly battling against them, and all the main characters are so supportive and uplifting. Likh is also the sweetest little cinnamon roll and I want to personally protect them at all costs.

Queerness always plays a pretty big part in this story. First off, we have two queer ladies that are big side character that had me smiling from ear to ear. Next, this book is called The Heart Forger, and that heart forger has been ostracized by his ruling father, stripped of his crown, because of the fact he likes men. You all, I don’t have words, only tears. But such wonderful discussions are held within the pages of these books. And I appreciate it so much.

The only “negative” thing I’ll say is that the three boys in this book all have names that start with the letter K, and it is a little hard (at least for me) to keep straight! So, let me do a little break down for you guys, in case you also have this problem:
Khalad – The newest heart forger, but still an apprentice.
Kance – Prince, who will eventually be king. Khalad’s younger brother and Kalen’s cousin.
Kalen – Amazing warrior who is promised to protect Kance at all costs.

But this was honestly my only problem with this book. Besides this little qualm, this book is perfection in my eyes. And this story is so inspiring, I can’t even put the feelings into words. And Tea is one of the most selfless protagonists I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Every choice she makes is so important. And it’s so beautiful to see her choosing actions that go against what everyone thinks she will become. This series has so many feministic themes, and I’m living for each and every one of them.

“Tea, you should prove them wrong. Show them asha are more than concubines for princes.”

You guys know I’m weak for a good sibling relationship, especially between a brother and sister, and Tea and her brother (that she resurrected to ultimately find out she was a bone witch) are goals! Fox is such a good character. And him and Tea’s banter is so believable and perfection. And Tea catching glimpses of her brother and a princess brought me so much joy and too many giggles. And now that we know what Tea is still trying to accomplish in present time, because they both share a lifeline. My heart, I can’t. The love between siblings can be so powerful.

But speaking of love. You all, I wasn’t prepared for the damn romance in this book. The Bone Witch gave us little breadcrumbs, but The Heart Forger busted through the door and asked me to hold their beer. Page 319 did things to me, and I’m still reeling. And, again, to know the outcome from the present time through the bard’s eyes, it equally guts me, yet warms my heart. It is so good.

“He kissed me. In full view of the nobles, in full view of the emperor and anyone who wanted to see, his mouth hot against mine. He tasted like everything I wanted, and he kissed like I could reach into his heart and take everything I desired from it.”

Overall, this has every single element that I look for and love in the fantasy I read. This has such a diverse cast, the magic is so unique, the world building is fantastical, the animal companion of Tea’s is everything, Tea herself is the feminist main character I want in every book, the writing is lyrical, I highlighted at least one quote in each chapter, and I mean, this is ultimately a story about demolishing some patriarchies. This story has it all, and I feel so blessed to have been able to read it. This is, without a doubt, going on my “best of 2018” list.

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

Buddy read with Lilly at Lair of Books ! ❤

St. Patrick’s Day Book Tag

St. Patrick’s Day Book Tag was originally created by BookaflixTaylor!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, my loves! I always try to do cute little tags on every holiday! And hopefully it lets you get to know me a little better! I hope you all have a safe and happy day, whether you celebrate or not. And I wish you all the gold, luck, faeries, wanted kisses, and happiness in the world today and always! 💚 🍀

➽ 1. Your Favorite Green colored book/movie:

Gosh, I feel like I should pick Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, because it is probably the green book that means the most to me. It for sure has had the biggest impact on my life. But if you guys wanted me to say a newer one, I would totally pick The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) by N.K. Jemisin.

➽ 2. Your favorite St Patrick’s Day themed book/movie?

The Leprechauns Don’t Play Basketball (Adventures of the Bailey School Kids #4) by Debbie Dadey & Marcia Thornton Jones. You guys better be laughing with me and not at me. Listen, I loved these books when I was a super little kid! I’m talking, could barely read. I was probably five years old, and my grandma had them all, and we would stay up late, cuddled in bed, and she’d read me this entire series over and over. And this particular book was an absolute banger, if memory serves me correctly. Perfect memories, perfect book, and perfect grandma.

➽ 3. Corned Beef and Cabbage: A book/movie that made you hungry?

Okay, apparently this tag is just going to be me trying to come up with different answers for Harry Potter. No, for real, Harry Potter is the number one “oh my gosh, I want to eat all of this” book. At Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley, The Burrow, I want all the food, please.

➽ 4. Four Leaf Clover: A book or item that was a rare, good luck find?

It was my good luck that Sebastien de Castell blessed me with a rare, first arc, of Traitor’s Blade. Not only is this my favorite series, Sebastien is one of my favorite authors. It is the book I cherish most in my collection, right alongside my first edition Harry Potters.

➽ 5. Irish Whiskey: A book so bad that you would need a drink to get over it?

A Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #1) by Amanda Bouchet. Like, the grey area consent in this book is enough to lead anyone to drink, honestly. Then the constant comments I get on my Goodreads review defending it? Please hand me a mojito and let me cry alone. Thanks.

➽ 6. Irish Dancing: A book so good, it made you want to dance in excitement?

Okay, I’m writing this up very early in March, but as of now, the last 5/5, banger, oh my gosh perfection, I’m jumping up and down, shouting from the rooftops, please buy this book, was Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1) by Tomi Adeyemi. Yeah, it really is that good.

➽ 7. Ireland: A book that made you travel to a different country?

Again, please don’t make fun of me! And it is only fitting because Ireland… Saint Patrick’s Day… I’m staying festive, you all! And I want to travel to this version of Dublin that Karen Marie Moning has created with her Fever Series! Give me all the fae, both unseelie and seelie, please!

➽ 8. The Pub: A meeting place in a book you’d love to go to.

Okay, call me ridiculous, I know I would probably die. But my favorite meet up place in any book ever is Inn of the Prancing Pony, in the village of Bree, from J.R.R. Tolkien’s immeasurable world. I wish nothing more than to be able to (safely) sit and people watch there all day long, with a big cup of coffee or tea. Seriously, that’s like my ultimate bookish immersion wish.

I Tag:

💚 Lilly
🍀 Benni
💚 The Orangutan Librarian
🍀 Kayla
💚 Avery
🍀 Destiny

(And to whoever else is interested in this tag – consider yourself tagged!)

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When Sinners Kneel (Blackest Gold World, #1) by R. Scarlett

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

Amazon US:
Amazon CA:
Amazon UK:
Amazon AU:

“I wanted to be safe.
I wanted to be strong.
I wanted to be loved.”

R. Scarlett has the best covers in PNR, the best titles in PNR, and with this book she proves she also has the best demons in PNR. I love this world, these characters, and each of their stories. Finally reading about Beau Knight , and seeing what went on behind the scenes during To Crown A Beast, was nothing short of amazing. This was a phenomenal standalone.

But it is important to take note that this book, even though it is on its own, will spoil the ending of Molly and Tensley’s story in The Blackest Gold series. And I completely recommended all four books, because the ending is so rewarding. Seriously, this is one of my favorite PNR series, and easily my favorite PNR that surrounds demons

In this world, demons are looked down upon for having feelings. And it’s especially hard for Beau Knight, since he had to learn this lesson the hard way, even having it ingrained in him from birth. Tensley and Beau are brothers who have grown up only knowing the harsh world of the Scorpios, who rule the demons in Manhattan and a lot of the rest of New York, but Beau lost it all when he lost his heart many years ago. Because of this, Beau has never been willing to let anyone get close to him again.

The ultimate sin in this world is to fall in love, and it’s even worse to fall in love with a human, who is considered lesser, and it’s absolutely unheard of to have a child out of wedlock. But there are also higher-ranking demons and lesser-ranking demons, too. And Alexandra, is a very low ranking souleater, who Tensley saved when she was eleven-years-old. And even though she is now eighteen, she has had a harder life than most. She is living on the streets, suffering from PTSD from the events that took place in a The Blackest Gold series, looking for her friend that went missing, and the only way she can think to cope with it all is to learn to fight and to learn to defend herself.

And what better place than the underground fighting ring. You know, the one that Beau is known for being the king of. But they both soon realize that there is a huge mystery surrounding The Pit and the person who runs in. Seriously, I loved the mystery and twists in this book. And seeing parallel events from the end of the original series made for such an amazing reading experience.

“The Pit was my hell, my heaven, my saving grace, and it was where I became addicted to her…”

Also, I don’t want to give too much away, but another aspect that I really loved that we never get to see any rep for is that Lex is living on the streets. She is a homeless, young girl, with no family. This is heavily talked about and shown unapologetically, and I just really appreciated it and it took the story to another level for me. Especially since the only other homeless character I even can think of is from a Rick Riordan book.

This is such an amazing standalone set in a The Blackest Gold world. Plus, it has everything; romance, steamy sex, mystery, political intrigue, demon hierarchies, thrilling suspense, amazing grey and flawed characters. There is a lot to love from this world and from this author. If you guys love the paranormal romance genre, you have to give these a try, especially this book. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Trigger/Content Warnings: physical abuse, drug and other substance abuse, kidnapping, being captured, torture, attempted rape, death, loss of a loved one, loss of a child.

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

Blackest Gold Series:
1.) Vein Of Love ★★
2.) Body of The Crime ★★★
3.) A Vow of Thorns ★★★★★
4.) To Crown A Beast ★★★★

Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft edited by Tess Sharpe & Jessica Spotswood

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ARC provided by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.

Friends, when I first heard about this anthology staring witches, I almost sold my soul for it. Instead I sent a begging request to Harlequin, but I would have tried any amount of magic to get my hands on this. And with good reason, because this was nothing short of amazing.

I know this doesn’t come out until late August, a day after my birthday to be exact, but something about this ARC just compelled me to read it this early. And I mean it, I couldn’t put this down. And when I did, each night I found myself being like, “just one story before bed!” and then I’d back to back read three or four, staying up way too late. I loved this, and I truly believe that it is nothing short of magical.

I think three stories really stood out for me, but there is honestly so much to love here. But my favorite was easily Why They Watch Us Burn by Elizabeth May. It meant so much to me that I instantly reread it, with just as many tears in my eyes. It was powerful, and important, and is going to change so many lives. I feel so blessed to have read it, and I’ll carry it with me forever. Love Spell by Anna-Marie McLemore was also a masterpiece, and one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read in my entire life. And The One Who Stayed by Nova Ren Suma also left me speechless from all the emotions it was able to evoke from me. I promise you, there are so many good stories in this anthology, but these three were my personal favorites.

I’m going to break down each short story with my thoughts, opinions, and individual star rating!

1. Starsong by Tehlor Kay Mejia – ★★★★

“People find me when they need to see the beauty they feel.”

This was so adorable. This is an ownvoices Latinx story about a sixteen-year-old girl, who loves painting, and make up, and reading charts and horoscopes for people. She has a very large social media presence, and people pay her to show them the things that they are unable to see. But this beautiful bruja is still living with the consequences of one bad decision she made a year ago. TW: drug use. Luna feels lonely, since her journey of changing her life, but that changes one night when a cute girl messages her. Also, I loved seeing Luna question if the girl she was talking to was queer or not. Like, so relatable, I swear. The story turns into two cute girls texting about science vs. magic, and I need so much more. I loved this. Also, this talks briefly about a polya relationship too that hires Luna, and give me all the polya rep and support and normalization!

2. Afterbirth by Andrea Cremer – ★★★

“In the eyes of the village, my truths cannot be suffered to live.”

I really enjoyed this little tale, set in 1600s New England during the witch trials. We are shown a very difficult childbirth scene (TW: complications during childbirth) that brings suspicion to the woman that delivered the child. Throw in mysterious spell books, a trial that a woman has no possibility of winning, and maybe even the Devil himself, and we have a very fun and spooky witch story that was perfect for this anthology.

3. The Heart in Her Hands by Tess Sharpe – ★★★

“He can’t fill the empty space in her because there are none. There is no emptiness in a devoted heart.”

Okay, first off, this is a tea lovers dream of a short story. I was filled with so much happiness just by all the tea descriptions in this book. Next, this was a wonderful story about soulmates and who you choose to love is the one you should be with. This is also queer and beautiful. And it really talks about the expectations your family can put, and sometimes force, on you. But how becoming who you want to be, and who you want to be it with, is more important than anything. This was adorable. TW: loss of a parent.

4. Death in the Sawtooths by Lindsay Smith – ★★★★

“A person can tell you anything, but bones—those tell the truth.”

Witches, warlocks, and wizards; this one had the whole magical hierarchy set in this town. Our main character is heavily judged because her patron is the Lady of Slumber, and she deals with the thing everyone fears most: death. So, this town carries some very heavy prejudices. But it ends up having a beautiful message about how everyone has a choice, and a person should only be judged on the actions they choose to perform. But sadly, people continue to stereotype off their prejudices. Even when the person they ostracize the most is the only one that can help them. I was hoping this was going to turn F/F, but it was still a nice relationship from bully to friend. TW: bullying, death, and prepping dead bodies.

5. The Truth About Queenie by Brandy Colbert – ★★★★★

“I do it for me, because if I don’t accept all the parts of myself, how can I be who I really am?”

This story was so damn good, and immersed me so damn hard, that I forget I was reading a short story in a witch anthology and was shocked when the witch aspect came into play. Yeah, this one was honestly perfection. This short story had everything, and it was nothing short of a delight to read. And the rep? This is an ownvoices story, and I believe all the characters we are introduced to are African American. And issues are brought up seamlessly, like how being black in a white neighborhood is hard enough, on top of also being a witch. The main character has panic attacks, is dealing with a loss of a friend, and is constantly worried about another loved one’s health. Also, the family members in this story and the strong emphasis on family was beautiful. And how much it means to have representation in something you’re passionate about. And it even talks about what it is like to be friends with someone famous, and how weird it is, because you knew them when they weren’t famous. And I’ve only told a few close friends about this, but this is actually something super near and dear to my heart, and I am not sure I’ve ever read that perspective in a book before. But mostly, this book is about owning who you are, letting people feel the weight of who you are, but making your own choices, and believing in yourself, and only letting yourself and your actions define you. Friends, get your hands on this short story. I promise, it’s worth the price of this anthology alone.

6. The Moonapple Menagerie by Shveta Thakrar – ★★

“Would you trade your friends for your deepest heart’s desire?”

This one was still fun to read, I just didn’t love it. It is about a coven of teenagers that are putting on a play and they all have different roles in the production. Oh, and they can all shift into different animals! The cast is all super diverse too, which I loved, and our main character, Shalini, is in charge of creating the perfect ending for the play. Yet, she feels like she needs a little help, so she asks a churel (demon) to help her, but obviously they are not willing to do it for free! But this is truly a story about friendship, and how being honest with the ones you love is always important. Also, don’t make deals with demons.

7. The Legend of Stone Mary by Robin Talley – ★★★★

“Everybody for miles around used to remember the story of Mary Keegan’s curse, but you wouldn’t know it now.”

You all, this one was spooky as heck to read! This would make the perfect Halloween read. Seriously, it has such a creepy atmosphere, setting, and even writing style. Robin Talley is talented. Also, this features a bit of F/F romance which you all know I’m always looking for. But this is a short story about a girl who has a very important lineage. And this is also a story about how important it is to not forget and repeat history, especially when a very powerful witch is still after revenge. TW: death and bullying.

8. The One Who Stayed by Nova Ren Suma – ★★★★★

“We used to be little, and soft. We used to say yes before we even heard the entire question. We used to think we had no recourse for making someone’s heart ache like ours have ached, for resetting the balance in the universe, for striving for the thing we’re not supposed to want but we still do want: revenge.”

First off, major TW for sexual assault, molestation, and rape. The dread you feel while reading this book, knowing what is going to happen, is something I don’t even have words for. But this story was perfection. It was powerful, and feminist, and evoked every emotion from me. Also, it has major vibes of The Craft, and you all know I’m always here for that. Also, I could have highlighted this entire story. This story will be so much better if you go into it blind, but I will say that it is about a group of girls in the woods, waiting to meet their newest member. And Nova Ren Suma just made my auto-buy list.

9. Divine Are the Stars by Zoraida Córdova – ★★★★

“…But memories make things grander and more beautiful when you want to think fondly on them.”

This was such a beautiful, ownvoices, Latnix, magical realism story that I want so much more of. Zoraida always completely blows me away with her lyrical writing, and this was no exception. This is a story about a girl named Marimar, who goes back to Colorado because her grandmother is dying. And even though it at first feels like this is a story about how death follows her, it’s such a beautifully gripping tale about family, and all the messy parts of family that people don’t like to put on display. And how family can truly do some horrible things, but it’s always important to know yourself, where you came from, and know what you need to be.

10. Daughters of Baba Yaga by Brenna Yovanoff – ★★★

“The moon is full, and even the stars are scared of me.”

This is obviously a twist on the tale of Baba Yaga, which surrounds three girls. And this one is filled with so much good. It’s basically about three witches, who want different things to change. TW: bullying and a bit graphic animal dissecting scene. This book stars a butcher’s daughter, so it is a little descriptive on animal organs and cuts and things of that nature, so use caution. But this has major The Craft vibes, too! Another other character was from Jewish descent, and it was amazing to see and read. And really damn important. There is such a good discussion around trying to “fit in” and be more “American” because you are embarrassed by what you are. This story even briefly talks about CCCP and the image of the hammer/sickle. There is a lot going on in this story, a lot, and maybe that’s why I didn’t love it as much? Or maybe I was just looking for more witchcraft? I don’t know, but I still think it’s powerful, and beautiful, and a wonderful addition to this collection. And I’ll always be here for girls unapologetically loving themselves and their culture.

11. The Well Witch by Kate Hart – ★★

“But men were the most unpredictable animals, and those that found Elsa’s oasis were usually lost both in geography and life…”

Okay, so I was completely enthralled and totally captivated by this story. It is set in 1875 Texas, and stars a girl who lives all by herself in a very harsh desert environment. Her mother is dead, and her father has been away for three years, so she has lived by herself for quite some time. That is, until three men show up looking for shelter. Again, I really enjoyed the first half of this, and was so excited to see where it would go. Sadly, I hated where it went. I completely hated this ending, and the events that took place leading up to it. TW: racism and animal cruelty and death.

12. Beware of Girls with Crooked Mouths by Jessica Spotswood – ★★★★★

“But she would trade it all to be able to remember her little sister’s smile.”

This was such a good story! Completely different than anything else in this collection, and I loved it. This is a story about three sisters who are forced to live their life devoted to a prophecy that happens every generation. Jo has an affinity with prophecies, Elle has a specialty for poison, and Georgie has a way with fire. Yet, the first thing we see in this tale is a prophecy for the future that Jo sees, and soon becomes obsessed with making it a reality. This totally does have Three Dark Crowns vibes, because only one of these girls are meant to live. Yet, this is truly a story about sisterhood, and how the choices we make will always be something we are held accountable for. And this ending gutted me. Seriously, please give me this full-length novel. I’m not above begging.

13. Love Spell by Anna-Marie McLemore – ★★★★★

“I said my prayers to God, who I believed still wanted me, even if the men who took up his name on Earth never would.”

Everyone, I’m crying while writing my mini-review for this one. Perfection. A masterpiece. Something worth more than all the stars. This is one of the most beautiful and powerful short stories I’ve ever read. Ever. In all my life. I’m going to preorder this collection just for this story alone. Nothing I’m going to say is going to do this story justice, but this is a tale about a bruja who comes to live with her tía, because they both share the magic of curing other people’s heartbreak. This is ownvoices Latinx fiction, that stars a boy who has devoted his life to God and the Catholic church, and a girl who the town thinks is a witch that doesn’t even deserve communion. And I promise you, it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. Also, the boy is trans and it just made the story even more perfect. This is about community, and prejudices, and family, and knowing your worth, and knowing when love is worth it.

14. The Gherin Girls by Emery Lord – ★★★★★

“She’ll tell her daughters someday: If you don’t feel safe enough to yell back, you’re not safe enough. My babies, that is not love.”

This was so powerful and so empowering. This is a such an amazing portrayal of sisterhood and unconditional love, and it stars three girls with very unique and different powers, but this is a story about abuse. TW: talk of abuse, but nothing too detailed or graphic. But this wonderfully lays out the cycle of abuse, and how easy it is to not realize you are in an abusive relationship. It talks about how your abuser will always want to isolate you, will make up excuses, will blame you, will gaslight you, and how they will slowly and seamlessly weave this into something that feels normal. This is an important short story, and I now want to buy everything Emery Lord has ever created. Also, there is a super cute F/F romance in here. And extra also, one of the three sisters are stated to be a lesbian, but I think it’s pretty implied that another sister is pan, but she should be bi, and that’s awesome too! This was amazing, and important, and easily worth more than five stars.

The Only Way Back by Tristina Wright – N/A

Okay, so this story will not be in the finished copy of this book in light of the sexual assault allegations against the author. You will only see this story in the printed ARC version. (Thank you so much to the editors, Harlequin, and anyone else that had a hand in this and by proving that they are listening and want to take steps to change the industry and make it a safer place.)

15. Why They Watch Us Burn by Elizabeth May – ★★★★★

“Here’s how to fulfill a prophecy: you are a woman, you speak the truth, and the world makes you into a liar.”

I finished this one weeping and sobbing. I immediately reread it, aloud, to a loved one. Immediately. It was that important to me. And the second time around, I was still crying. Ugly crying. Truthful crying. I cried for every woman out there, whose voice has been silenced. Whose voice will continue to be silenced until things change. This is about a girl who is sent to work in a forest, lumber, labor camp, because of her sinful ways. There, she is one of thirteen girls, all from different walks of life, but all of them have sinned for just being a woman, therefore a witch. This is about found family, and sisterhood, and reclaiming your identity, and gaining a voice. This was so beautifully structured, and so beautifully written. And it has such great representation, from different races, to a beautiful F/F story, to a trans character, this was just exceptionally crafted. This story should be required reading. I don’t see how anyone who reads this anthology’s life isn’t going to be changed just from reading this short story. And the editors were genius for making it the closing story. This short story is probably the best thing I’ve read all year. I am in awe, I am speechless, but I’m begging you to read this short story. This was feministic perfection. TW: implied rape, but nothing too graphic or visual. This story meant so much to me, and impacted me so profoundly, I’m going to find a way to incorporate it in my best reads of 2018 come December.

I gave Toil & Trouble four stars overall, because out of a possible 75 stars (5 stars possible for each of the 15 stories) this collection accumulated 59 stars (~78%). But honestly? This feels like it deserves a higher percentage. This was amazing, and I completely recommend it. And I don’t say this lightly: Elizabeth May’s story honestly changed my life. It’s maybe the best short story I’ve ever read. Please pick this up come August!

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

Top Ten Tuesday | Books That Surprised Me

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018!

So, this prompt is all about books that surprised you in a good or bad way! I figured I would try to live the best of both words, so I decided to break this up with five good surprises and five bad surprises! I hope you all enjoy! Happy reading, loves!


The Queen’s Rising (Untitled Trilogy #1) by Rebecca Ross
This is the newest book to surprise me! I saw this getting a lot of lower ratings on Goodreads, so I went into this not expecting much, but I was blown away by how unique this world and plot were! I truly ended up enjoying this so much, and it was such a fresh take on YA fantasy, in my opinion!

Storm Born (Dark Swan #1) by Richelle Mead
Okay, I picked this up after I fell in love with Vampire Academy, and this was… everything. Shamans, the best love triangle, fae lands! I completely was blown away! Mead’s best work to date, I swear.

Black Iris by Elliot Wake
Okay, I thought this was going to be a dark, thriller, that could maybe be a little queer. And then it went and completely changed my life! My dear friend Silvia is doing an amazing feature on her blog called #QueerLitStories, and I wrote up a little post for her, if you all are interested!

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere #1) by Meg Elison
I thought this was just going to be another dystopian, and then it ended up being my favorite book of 2016. I still don’t have words for the amount of power in this book, but it’s a masterpiece. And I legitimately only requested an ARC of it off Netgalley because of the cover.

Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon
Let’s be real, I went into this only hearing about the “spanking” scene, and everyone telling me I was going to hate it. But I ended up really, really enjoying it. The world blew me away, Claire is one of my favorite female leads, and Jamie… well, Jamie was nice, too.

(I don’t want to make anyone sad, so I’m just going to do a quick, one-liner, that hopefully won’t make you all hate me!)

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood #1) by Melissa Albert
This was supposed to be a whimsical and fantastical tale, but instead I was given a mostly contemporary with the most annoying character who was never aware of her privilege.

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1) by Deborah Harkness
This was supposed to make me all excited for the TV show, but instead it almost put me to sleep every night, because it was so boring.

A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle #1) by Libba Bray
This was supposed to be my intro to Libba Bray that was going to make me fall in love, but instead it was nothing but racist and fatphobic and unbearable to read.

A Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #1) by Amanda Bouchet
This was supposed to be a sexy new fantasy, instead I was given the most disgusting grey area consent scenes I’ve ever witness, while also being forced to see abuse romanticized.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl
This was supposed to be a new mystery favorite, but instead I had to be in the head of an older, white, rich, privileged in every way, male, who was racist, and transphobic, misogynistic, and just a downright awful human.

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