3 Mini Reviews | Nocturna, Rise to the Sun, The Love Hypothesis

hi hi hi, friends! it has been a while since i’ve done a 3 mini review post, but this one has been sitting in my drafts for so long – i knew i wanted to quickly add a third review once 2022 came around! i hope you enjoy, and i hope you’re being gentle with yourselves! (and i hope to have another one of these posts up sooner than the last, muhahaha!) happy reading! 💗


Nocturna (A Forgery of Magic #1) by Maya Motayne

💛 A review to check out: Johely’s!

“Magic could not speak, yet interacting with it felt like a conversation, a dance, a story shared with a friend with the ending left up to interpretation.”

This was our September 2020 pick for the Dragons & Tea Book Club, and I loved it so much. This is a story about identity, classism, privilege, freedom, honoring your culture and the past regardless of who tries to erase it, and respecting boundaries unapologetically.

This is a story about a boy named Elfie, who is the crown prince and can wield water magic in this world. He has been away for three months, grieving a brother who everyone thinks is dead. But now that he is back in his city, he meets Fin who can change appearances and maybe help him become someone else, too. It turns into a spy mission, involving stolen books, black magic, and erasing a language that still belongs to them. And Finn and Alfie realize they are both harboring an immense grief and trying to heal from abuse and their past.

This is such a beautiful book that I feel like is so underrated, which is an actual crime because the layers of this story render me speechless alone. Everything is also a love letter to Latine / South American culture and a mirror to the erasure still from colonization today. My heart was extra full at the way Spanish is also woven into this story constantly. I truly recommend this fantasy to everyone, and I am so honored that we picked it for a book club pick! Also, that ending? I need book two immediately!

Trigger & Content Warnings: anxiety, loss of a loved one, grief deception, talk of slavery, blood depiction, drinking, vomiting, gore, murder, torture, slavery, controlling, and abuse.

4


Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson

“That big love you give everyone else-you deserve to save some for yourself. You’re worth that much. You’re worth every good thing.”

This is a story told over the course of three days at a music festival, with alternating povs!

Olivia is there with her best friend in the whole world, and the one person who always has her back in every situation. Olivia has had a lot of not so great romantic relationships, but this last one ended with a massively evil invasion of privacy that has also caused her a lot of harassment before her junior year of high school ended.

Toni has grown up with music and the Farmland Music Festival for her whole life. It brings on so many happy memories of nostalgia, but also a lot of uneasy feelings about her future before her freshman year of college begins. But she hopes she will find some answers this weekend at the festival with her best friend.

And when a hidden apple(s) quest and a musical performance mission to win gets sprung on both of these girls and their friends the first day, we get to see everything playout the whole weekend. Sadly, I think this being told over three days was what didn’t work for me. I loved so many parts of this story, and I really enjoyed the first day and seeing the story being set up, but days two and three weren’t able to make me connect as much, even though my heart broke for all the characters very differently. I really think having a glimpse into the future past the three days would have really helped and really helped the insta-love too (and i’m not saying insta-love is bad or not real, it’s just not my favorite type of romance)!

You Should See Me in a Crown is one of my favorite YA contemporaries of all time (you still me holding it in my pfp, hehe) and I still am in complete awe of Leah Johnson and what they are doing for queer poc teens is truly life changing. Their stories are making so many people feel seen, making so many people cry real tears wishing they had books like this when they were younger (me), making publishing and the world such a more hopeful place. I will support and boost their voice always, and even though this book wasn’t the perfect book for me, I know it’s going to mean the whole world to so many!

Content and Trigger Warnings: loss of a parent, panic attacks, gun violence, and nonconsensual image sharing (provided by the author at the start of the book <3)! I also would like to add talk of mass shootings, anxiety depiction, asthma attacks, online bullying and harassment, ptsd depiction, many feelings of abandonment.

Buddy read with May! ❤

3


The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

“I’ve never been surer of anything. Except maybe cell theory.”

the love hypothesis is the best romance i’ve read in years. it’s smart, funny, and oh so swoon worthy! and it was truly one of those books that reminded me why i love reading. i fell in love with both olive and adam so quickly, but i also found this to be one of the most believable fake dating romances, too. from the very first page, i was absolutely hooked and only felt more and more endeared throughout! (and even more late into the night when i desperately was signing up for the author’s newsletter so i could unhingedly get an adam pov bonus chapter!)

this book deals with some heavy themes at times, so please use caution and i’ll list some warnings below. i personally felt like the author does a thoughtful and important job at highlight what women of stem can face in many lab settings, while also always shining light on how much more noninclusive (and scary) that it can be for bipoc women and nonbinary people of stem. (the author note at the end with some resources was really amazing, too)

i just appreciated so much of this book and this author’s words. this story was a little niche to me and my personal life, so i think that also helped me fall in love! (i’m not sure if i can blame it on why i was giggling a sickening amount into my pillow – but i will pretend!) and i also want to note, that the word is never on page, but there was some demi rep in this story that i found very relatable and it meant a whole lot to me too.

i am so very excited to see what this author does next. this was nothing short of a treat to read. the friendships were everything, the banter was perfect, and the sex was 11/10.

(if you’d like to learn more about pancreatic cancer research here are some that are near to my heart!)

trigger and content warnings: talk of cancer, loss of a parent in the past, talk of fear of needles, and sexual harassment, abuse of power, + bullying in work/college settings.

5


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3 Mini Reviews | The Drowning Faith, The Chosen and the Beautiful, Darling

hi hi hi – i miss you all and i hope you’re well! i have a bunch of these half written up mini review posts so i figured i would actually throw three together! i can’t wait to start reading all your mid year posts and statistics! and hopefully you will see one from me soon! i love you all so much, happy reading! 💕


The Drowning Faith (The Poppy War, #2.5) by R.F. Kuang

1.) The Poppy War ★★★★
2.) The Dragon Republic ★★★★★
3.) The Burning God ★★★★★

“She’s the only divine thing he’s ever believed in. The only creature in this vast, cruel land who could kill him. And sometimes, in his loveliest dreams, he imagines she does.”

Well, those fifteen pages broke me and my heart completely. This was everything. This was perfection. These are my new favorite fifteen pages of all time. Be still, what is left of my heart.

The Drowning Faith is a collection of a few scenes, where we get to see Nezha’s perspective of many events from the first two books inThe Poppy War series. Nezha and Rin have one of the most complicated relationships throughout all three books, but these few pages really just made the impact of everything they’ve been through, fought for, and built together that much stronger.

“It doesn’t matter that he loves her. It doesn’t matter. It’s never mattered.”

Rin and Nezha were always stars from opposite sides in the celestial sphere, even if they always looked like they were formed from the same exact constellation. These scenes hurt to see from Nezha’s point of view so very badly. Yet, they both shined so brightly in a war that they were forced to be main players in just by being born.

But this short amount of pages still talks about colonization and how Petra and the hesperians are happily able to commit the most evil acts in the name of their god, while taking over everything to prove Rin and Nezha’s are lesser, even when they are the ones winning the battles.

Truly, I could write a thesis on these crumbs, but I have extensive reviews for all three books that I suggest you check out instead. But this truly was such a treat, and I feel so honored that Rebecca gave these scenes to us. Even if it allowed for a certain kiss scene to break me all over again in the best and worst ways, and even if page ten has now left me to become a ghost now inhabiting this husk of a human body.

“She’s everything he’s not: unbound, reckless, free. He’s never known anyone like her. She terrifies him, and he loves her so much it hurts.”

Content and Trigger Warnings: torture, violence, death, human experimentation, and war themes.

5


The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

“…like some kind of sacrament that I had forgotten to take.”

a queer asian-american main character great gatsby? i knew i needed this in my life. i will be honest, i have never been the biggest fan of the great gatsby, so i do believe this impacted my enjoyment a little bit, because this book does very much still hold true to the original work! but i still thought this was a beautiful reimaging, with such lush prose and one liners, that left my heart beating so very quickly so many times. the magic was also so hauntingly perfect and i know it’s something i’m going to think about constantly for quite some time. the themes of identity within the story were also very important, and how no matter how much you feel like you fit in, people will always remind you that you will never truly be one of them. and the themes of identify outside the story, and how we deserve to carve out our own spaces, we deserve to be the main protagonists of beloved classics and modern day lit, and our voices deserve to not only be told, but to be amplified really was everything to me as a queer asian reader.

i can’t wait to read more by this author, and i’m very thankful that the chosen and the beautiful is a book that exists.

content and trigger warnings: a lot of talk of drinking, talk of war, talk of loss of loved ones, death, murder, racism, microaggressions, a lot of cheating, abuse / domestic abuse, mention of suicide, mention of slavery, mention of blood.

4


Darling K. Ancrum

K. Ancrum is truly just a once in a lifetime author. Her prose and craft are so unique and so smart and every book by her feels like something of magic. Darling is a modern day thriller reimagining of Peter Pan with a very diverse cast; our main character is Black and we have a very full cast of side characters side characters of color (Black, Korean, and Ojibwe), who are queer (lesbian rep, ace rep, bi rep, and a really beautiful Chicago drag scene moment that I could gush about forever), and disabilities (hearing impairment & amputated hand).

Wendy has recently moved to Chicago, but when moving into her new bedroom she realizes the window is broken and unable to stay closed. And this story is told over the course of one night when she leaves through the window with Peter Pan himself because of a promise of a party, but she soon realizes that Peter did not walk out of the pages of a fairytale.

This is a very unsettling and uncomfortable story about the vulnerability of kids (especially bipoc queer kids) who feel like that don’t have a place to belong. Every book by this author is truly a love letter to found families, but this book also explores the importance of safety and how hard it can be to recognize abuse, especially when it it can be disguised as kindness when you are longing to find a place to belong. Again, this can be a bit of a terrifying read at times, but you will be swept alongside Wendy, becoming more and more enthralled, discovering all the things, and wanting to protect all the lost kids.

K. Ancrum is just an author that really means a lot to me, and I know her stories are touching and helping and healing so many kids who are able to find her words. She is such a bright light in this universe, and I’m forever thankful that I get the honor to read her books. Truly, once in a lifetime.

Content and Trigger Warnings: death (off page), murder (off page), police brutality, child abuse, manipulation, abduction, child abandonment, explosions, grooming, blood depiction, brief mention of disordered eating, and anxiety depiction.

5


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3 Mini Reviews | Star Daughter, Alloy of Law, & Girl, Serpent, Thorn


Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar 

Reviews you should check out: Fanna’sAnandi’sSara’s

“She was nothing but the words of a story, one tale weaving imperceptibly into the next. She was the loom that wove the tapestry. She was the tapestry that joined all things.”

Star Daughter is a beautiful story about a girl who is half human and half star, and she must go to the celestial court to try to save her father after he has fallen ill. And before she knows it, she is taking part in a magical competition that she must win!

This is also a story about art and all the different forms, and how sometimes music can be healing. Yet also about how much is taken from other cultures under the disguise of the word “muse”. This is such a beautiful story that is ownvoices for the Indian representation and the Hindu mythology, and I truly think it’s a bright and shining star *wink* in 2020 debuts!

If you’re looking for a story with some magic, some romance, some identity discovery, connections through our ancestors, beautiful and lush settings, mouthwatering food descriptions, and a whole lot of love on every page, I’d really recommend Star Daughter!

Trigger and Content Warnings: abandonment, lots of blood depiction, violence (cuts & stabs), captivity, hospitalization of a loved one, illness of a loved one, panic attacks, talk of kidnapping, and talk of loss of a loved on in the past.
4


The Alloy of Law (Mistborn, #4) by Brandon Sanderson

“Huh […] tea’s poisoned.”

Oh, I loved finally experiencing this next era of the mistborn world, especially in a city called Elendale (be still, my heart)! Yet, I was not expecting this book to start out with a very tragic murder plotline where the bodies are arranged in a very specific pose, and for the actual story to be taking place five years later where Wax is very much still grieving that night. And when the kidnappings start happening again, especially when these people being kidnapped are from mistborn family lines.

I also really love how mistborns are no longer a thing in this new day and age! At most people can have one alomatic ability and one feruchemic ability (twinborns)! And our main characters have some really cool and fun powers with these two abilities:

➽ Wax – pushes steel & can grow heavier and lighter
➽ Wayne – Can alter time & heals quickly (can also make great disguises, but unrelated to metals and powers!)

Overall, I really enjoyed this first installment in a very beloved universe! And I can’t wait to continue on! Also, I will forever be the biggest fangirl of a certain brother who is destined to continue his brother’s work. Okay, brb, crying.

Content and Trigger Warnings: murder, death, mention and threat of rape, kidnapping, gore, and violence.

4


Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

“She had read enough stories to know that the princess and the monster were never the same.”

Oh, I wanted to love this one so very badly! Sadly, most of the characters just felt so insufferable and their actions felt so convenient and questionable. This is ownvoices for the Persian mythos, and does star a bi MC (the author is queer, but I’m not sure what they ID as!) But this is a story about a princess who is cursed with a poisonous touch, and because of that she is constantly alone and locked away by her family because they don’t want anyone to know and she doesn’t want to hurt anyone on accident! That is, until she meets a boy named Azad who not only finds out but is not scared of her or her touch! You know, until bad things happen and her, her family, and her entire kingdom is in grave danger!

Now, this is where the insufferable MC comes in, because Soraya truly just makes the most questionable of choices, while the other characters just magically choose to believe her for progression of the story. Meanwhile, a demon girl named Pavenah is everything and I loved her with the sum of my being!

This had a lot of potential, and I liked the talk on power dynamics and imbalances a lot, but the story just never made me feel like there were any risks because they always conveniently worked out over and over again. Truly, even the villains in this book were the most trustworthy for no reason. Yet, I will say that I am very much in the minority with my feelings on this book, so maybe check out some other reviews! Also, I never want to read about convenient secret passages again either!

Content and Trigger Warnings: blood, gore, violence, captivity, & panic attack/anxiety depiction.

2


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3 Mini Reviews | The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, Dragon Unleashed, Ice Planet Barbarians


The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics (Feminine Pursuits, #1) by Olivia Waite

“We thought we were separate satellites, but we aren’t. We’re stars, and though we might burn separately, we’ll always be in one another’s orbit.”

I really loved this a lot! I especially loved all the different kinds of reclaiming in this story! Maybe all it took for me to fall in love with a historical romance was sapphics in STEM (and art)! Who would have guessed? :]

This was so feminist, so queer, so healing, and so beautiful. And I loved hearing these girls talk unapologetically about how so many other women’s ideas have been taken all throughout history by men who then take the credit, too.

Trigger and Content Warnings: domestic abuse in the past, sexism, misogyny, talk of colonization, and talk of loss of a loved one in past.

4


Dragon Unleashed (Fallen Empire, #2) by Grace Draven 

1.) Phoenix Unbound ★★★★

“What must it be like to be loved this way? So devotedly that the person you parted with cried at your absence before you even left?”

Oh friends, this was such a disappointment for me, especially after loving the first book in this series, Phoenix Unbound, so much! Dragon Unleashed does read as a stand alone, and in this world magic is outlawed! That is why it is so important for our main character, Halani, to hide that she has earth magic, especially since it helps her family who are traveling traders. Yet, when her uncle finds a bone that she can tell will bring nothing but pain to them, he refuses to listen. And that bone happens to be a dragon bone that our other main character, Malachus, needs because the magic holding his dragon-self inside this human form is quickly waning.

Action and romance ensue, well, they ensue extremely slowly over these 400 pages. I was highly anticipating this one, and I always feel like good fantasy romance is hard to find, but I have enjoyed everything by Grace Draven in the past! But I just felt such a disconnect from this book for so many reasons (so much miscommunication, very questionable disability representation, the most long-winded banter), but also because it truly was so very boring for the first 90%.

Trigger and Content Warnings: talk of assault (unwanted touching), torture, violence, gore, blood depiction, captivity, kidnapping, mention of slavery, ableism (in a negative light), and talk of rape in the past.

2


Ice Planet Barbarians (Ice Planet Barbarians #1) by Ruby Dixon

“It wasn’t a monster come to eat me. It was this monster. Who’s come to eat me out.”

Let me start out this mini review by saying that I had less than 48 hours on my audible escape membership and the hype was real, okay? Basically, our main character, Georgie, wakes up and doesn’t know where she is, but she quickly learns that she has been abducted by aliens who are planning to sell her and a lot of other girls. Only one of them has a translating device attached to her, and basically you have to be quiet or else. Well, one of the newly abducted girls are not quiet and they quickly see what horrible things will happen at the hands of the captors. But the spaceship quickly is forced to land on some other planet and they are forced to wait for more aliens to come help them out, but the girls take this advantage to plan an escape.

And Georgie, being the brave and slightly horny character she is, decides to go looking for other life who hopefully aren’t kidnappers and rapists. And what better way to get to know a blue alien that reminds me heavily of male draenei in World of Warcraft than to have him go down on you for a little bit, even though you all can’t understand each other. And together they try to prove that you don’t need to speak the same language to try to help your friends and have lots of good sex along the way back to the abandoned spaceship.

Listen, this was a mess and I don’t get the hype, but to each their own, truly. 2010 Melanie was reading some real questionable shit, so you all do you and I support it. But 2020 Melanie just can’t read about the “you’re my mate now” storylines with a straight face, especially when they are with blue people who can’t even understand each other in the midst some some really traumatic shit going on. Especially when that magical bond (and more magical sex) saves lives.

I’m giving this two stars because it wasn’t offensive, I enjoyed trying to see them communicate with each other, and this audiobook made me laugh so hard it was a bit unreal (the rock sex is 100% going to stick with me for a while). Truly the hidden serotonin boost.

Trigger and Content Warnings: abduction, sex trafficking, drugging, rape, murder, gore, violence, and death.

2


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