Blog Tour Review | The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves, #1) by Roshani Chokshi

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ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Sometimes the only way to take down what had destroyed you was to disguise yourself as part of it.”

Most of you know that Roshani Chokshi is one of my favorite authors. I loved both The Star-Touched Queen & A Crown of Wishes with my whole heart and soul! So, I knew when she was writing a brand-new series, about a found family completing heists and solving puzzles, that I wouldn’t be able to resist once I got my hands on an ARC. And friends, this was such a treat to read.

This is a historical fantasy set in alternate 1889 Paris, France, and in this alternate world, children will manifest magical powers by the age of thirteen. And there are two different kinds of magic; the magic of mind and the magic of matter. There is also a very powerful secret society, that goes by the name of the Order of Babel, and it used to be made up of four houses, but two houses took over ten years ago. And by doing so, they made a very big mistake claiming the heir of one of those fallen houses as dead.

“Turning into ghosts is not what the dead deserve.”

Séverin – Biracial (Algerian & French). For sure the leader of the group, who wants nothing more than to keep his crew safe and out of harm’s way. But he is on a mission to reclaim his true inheritance that was stolen from him with lies ten years ago, because he gets an offer than he couldn’t possibly refuse.

Laila – Indian (ownvoices), dancer, who is dealing with a lot of grief and a lot of anxiety over her past. She has the magical (matter) forging ability to touch any object and read it to know everything about it. And she desperately needs Séverin’s plan to work.

Tristan – White, and Séverin considers him his little brother, because they moved around a lot together in foster care. Also, Tristan loves his pet tarantula, Goliath, more than anything, but he’s still my favorite little gardener/botanist.

Zofia – On the Autism spectrum, Jewish, Polish, has anxiety, and a lot of her actions (in my opinion, as someone who has OCD) feels like she may also fall on the OCD spectrum. She finds comfort in numbers, needs to have things in their rightful place, and is willing to do any and everything for her little sister that she was forced to leave behind. Zofia also has magical forging abilities of the mind.

Hypnos – Black, queer (probably pan, maybe bi, and maybe even non-binary), heir of a French aristocrat but know he is also a descendant of slavery. His story line is a little rough at first, but you soon realize that he considers Séverin a brother to him, and honestly? Hypnos ended up being my second favorite character. Also, he made me giggle so much that my tummy hurt.

Enrique – Biracial (Filipino (ownvoices) & Spanish), queer (he is either bisexual or pansexual, but I’m not sure my heart can take reading about a half Filipino, pan character because it is all I’ve ever wanted in literature!) But, this character meant a lot to me. I am not sure I’ve ever read specifically about a biracial Filipino dealing with cultural erasure on both sides of their heritage before. I mean, this book is literally people trying to erase cultures from history, and Enrique is literally a historian, but seeing people make comments about his looks and biraciality just really hit home for me on a really personal level. I completely realize that there comes an immense privilege with being white passing but reading this book and feeling how real and hurtful it is when people disregard you and erase you because you don’t fit in their stereotypical mold of what a half Asian person should look like, but they also never let you forget that you’re not fully white. Yet, also not feeling like you truly fit in because of your lighter or more westernized features, even if they comment about it in a way that they believe is positive and a compliment. And Enrique also has to deal with people thinking that Asian people are interchangeable and thinking that their cruel and ignorant words are acceptable to say. I loved all the characters in this book, but Enrique just felt like the character I’ve been searching for for a very long while and he just really encompassed so many things that I hold inside myself every day. His character just meant a lot to me, and I will cherish him forever and always in my heart.

(Breathtaking art(s) by Nicole Deal!)

And this ragtag group of misfits come together and create something so beautiful that I hardly have words to describe it. This book heavily talks about colonization. And even though the heart of this novel is about a found family who unconditionally loves one another, the soul of this novel is about cultural erasure and how important it is to keep the traditions and history from your culture, no matter who tries to make you believe that theirs is superior. And this book really puts an emphasis of the terrible acts people will commit while saying that it’s for or because of a higher power.

“But the greatest thief of all was the Order of Babel, for they stole more than just objects . . . they stole histories”

But all these characters feel like a tier above the rest of what YA has to offer. They feel so real, their pain feels so raw, and you just want to protect them all at all costs. Roshani really is a master word weaver and I can’t help falling in love with every story she puts into the world. She is also the master of romance, and I was swooning extra hard for two people in this. (Also, the set up to book two will probably be the death of me!) As for the other romantic relationship, Roshani is either going to completely slay me with the love triangle or give me everything I’ve ever wanted with a polyamorous relationship. Lord, hear my prayers.

Also, because I don’t think I mentioned this above, a good portion of this book is set at a hotel called L’Eden where the crew lives and develops new advancements to help them with their missions. I know I’ve already gushed pretty hard over this book, but I love books that are set in hotels and inns so much, and it was just such an unexpected treat. Then again, Roshani always writes the best settings and my heart fell completely in love with a poisonous greenhouse in this story, too.

Overall, I just really loved this one. I am sure many people will compare The gilded Wolves to a mix of Six of Crows & The Da Vinci Code upon release, and I think that’s valid, bu I think it has its own unique spin, too. The cast is diverse and lovable, the writing is lush and beautiful, the themes are important and heartfelt, and the story is captivating and unputdownable. If you like a story with secrets and mystery, filled artifacts and puzzle solving, with a little romance and funny banter, then I completely recommend picking up The Gilded Wolves upon release.

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

Content and trigger warnings for colonialism, cultural erasure, and racism (always challenged and in a negative light), blood depiction, mention of past suicide, loss of a loved one, bullying in the past, abandonment, anxiety attacks, mention of a stillbirth, and depictions of grief.

Buddy read with Kristi, Mel, Amy, Caidyn, Lily, & Alex! ❤

My Fake Canadian Wife by M. Hollis

Goodreads | Amazon US

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

Did I just start 2019 off with the cutest sapphic relationship set up, that also featured a pan love interest? Wow, the blessings for this new year already! Friends, I loved this. And if you’re looking for something diverse, something hella cute, something super romantic, and something that’s a really quick read, then look no further.

“Why was it so hard to find good mainstream media where you could see two girls falling in love with a happy ending? Even harder if I wanted to find stories with black girls. Brazilian black girls falling in love? Mostly, I’d only found them in indie and self-published books. Maybe it would be easier to enjoy more media if everything I tried to watch didn’t look as white as the walls of my apartment.”

My Fake Canadian Wife is an ownvoices story for the Brazilian and the queer representation. Our main character, Dora, is a lesbian and is an aspiring photographer from Brazil, who moved to Canada to go to school, and is still currently living there. Sadly, their camera broke so they are currently working as a barista at a local café trying to save up money. That is, until Dora receives a letter from immigration telling her that she hasn’t updated her student Visa and that she is going to be deported if the situation isn’t corrected.

Dora is feeling helpless, and unsure if she wants to move back with her family in Brazil, but a coworker introduces her to Abby, who is a librarian, pan, adorable, and totally willing to marry Dora to keep her in the country. But first, they have to see if they are both willing to commit to something like this, and they have to find out if they even like being around each other for long periods of time. And what better way than for Dora to spend Christmas and the holidays with Abby and her family? And they both learn a lot about themselves and the kind of relationship that they want and need.

Last year, I fell in love with The Melody of You and Me which starred a pan main character who fell for a Filipino girl, and at this point I think M. Hollis is writing stories specifically for me and my interests. Even though both of these stories are filled with very real and challenging situations, but are heartwarming, sapphic stories that just fill my body and soul with so much pure joy and happiness.

Overall, I just loved this and I really appreciate the stories that M. Hollis keeps writing. They always make me feel so seen, and I always have the biggest smile on my face while reading their stories. I’ll be the first to say that this story is a little predictable, but that didn’t make me love it any less. I hope 2019 is filled with f/f romances like this! And I hope M. Hollis never stops writing them, especially after reading the author acknowledgements because you can really tell they put a lot of themselves into this beautiful story and it really shines through.

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The quote above was taken from an ARC and is subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for talk of cancer and talk of the loss of a loved one.

 

Dragons & Tea Book Club | February Pick!

dragons & tea

Hey, loves! Okay, we decided to already announce our February pick for the #DragonsAndTeaBookClub! And we decided to combine the celebrations of Black History Month and Valentine’s Day and picked an ownvoices book by a Black author who is the queen of romance and steam! This book is also ownvoices with the main character being on the Autism spectrum. This book is also very sex positive, very body positive, and always puts consent at the forefront. And it’s $2.99 on Kindle US! 💗

And we hope that you all will join us in our Goodreads Group, too! 🐉☕

But we also will be celebrating and talking with you all on Twitter and Instagram using the (hashtag) #DragonsAndTeaBookClub!


But without further ado, our February pick is:

A Girl Like Her (Ravenswood #1) by Talia Hibbert

➽ The Dates & Breakdown:
February 4th – Chapters 1 – 7 (Pages 1 – 68)
February 5th – Chapters 8 – 15 (Pages 69 – 134)
February 6th – Chapters 16 – 22 (Pages 135 – 201)
February 7th – Chapters 23 – 28 (Pages 202 – 256)
February  8th – Chapters 29 – End (Pages 257 – End)

Content and Trigger Warnings for:
Past domestic violence
(From Leigh’s amazing review!)


And if you’d like to be friends with me and Amy on any other platform:
🐉☕ MelanieInstagram | Twitter | Goodreads
🐉☕ AmyInstagram | Twitter | Goodreads

 

The Kingdom of Copper (The Daevabad Trilogy, #2) by S.A. Chakraborty

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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

1.) The City of Brass ★★★★★

“It is time we get some vengeance for what they have done.”

Friends, this was such a phenomenal installment that was such a treat to read. This is an own voices Muslim Fantasy series, and a historical setting of the early 1800s, which barely touches upon the Ottoman Empire. And The Kingdom of Copper picks up five years after the events of The City of Brass

This is a story about djinn, and magical cities, and people being able to harness powers that they don’t fully understand. This is also a story about oppression, and privilege, and the terrible things people are willing to do in the name of pure blood. The mixed bloods in this world, shafits, are treated horribly and without a second thought. This book very much mirrors present day and the refugee crisis; people are unable to get food and shelter, while others are dying of things that could be easily healed, all because of fear, prejudices, and hatred.

Our three main characters are all very separated and all living very different lives than when we last saw them in the first installment. But they all have also grown tremendously during the five years, and now all have very different goals.

“A threat to a loved one is a more effective method of control than weeks of torture.”

Nahri – gifted healer who is trapped in the royal court of Daevabad and trying to make the best out of an alliance that was forced upon her.

Ali – djinn prince exiled by his father, constantly in fear for his life, while also trying to learn his new abilities.

Dara – one of the best warriors, who is watching soldiers being rallied, who are willing to do terrible things in the name of peace.

“Everyone knew about Darayavahoush, Nahri. They just couldn’t agree if he was a monster or a hero.”

My biggest complaint about this second installment is how long it took for Dara and Nahri’s storylines to actually meet up. Obviously, I ship them pretty hard, so I was just really disappointed when it took forever for them to even interact with one another, especially with what Nahri believes. Also, as much as I love the queer side characters in this story, I’m not entirely sure how I liked how one of them was handled. Also, I very much thought Ali was going to give us some bisexual representation in this book, but it appears that we are just going to get a hetero love triangle, which makes me sad.

But this story was impossible to put down, because I was so enthralled on every page. I feel like this 600+ page book was just completely packed with action, and I never wanted it to end. I love S.A. Chakraborty’s writing, and I think she really expertly crafts three very different characters, with three very different perspectives, all of which I completely adored.

“You don’t stop fighting a war just because you’re losing battle”

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and the last line of this book will leave you utterly breathless. I have such high hopes for book three, and fully expect that it’s going to be a perfect conclusion with the way all the threads of this story leave off. This is such a beautiful Middle Eastern story, that ties in so much of the culture’s folklore in an absolutely beautiful and seamless way. I completely recommend this series with my whole heart.

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

Content and trigger warnings for graphic violence, torture, death, murder, slavery, human trafficking, talk of stillbirth, talk of past threat of rape, and war themes.

Buddy read with Jocelyn at Yogi with a Book! ❤

 

Merry Inkmas by Talia Hibbert

Goodreads | Amazon US (FREE until X-Mas!)| Barnes & Noble

“…Princesses like no-strings sex just as much as the next girl.”

Oh, friends, please pick this one up for the holiday season! It was so heartwarming, so atmospheric, and brought me so much joy to read! I loved both protagonists, I loved the wintery setting, I loved the Christmas tattoo shop, and I completely recommend this one with my entire heart. And now I need to go and read everything by Talia Hibbert.

This is an ownvoices novel, starting a Black woman that is working as a barista in a coffee shop part-time while she goes to college. And she has a regular customer who makes her pretty weak in the knees with his flirting, even though nothing ever comes from it. That is, until one night, before closing, and Bailey’s friend John comes in, who is homeless and cold. She is trying to warm him up, when her boss comes out of the back and acts like a complete jerk, until the mystery man witnesses it all and takes action.

“Boring guys finish last,” she corrected, pushing the completed forms back to him. “Nice guys finish anywhere they want. Especially when they look like you.”

Cash is a white tattoo artist, who knows how needed a helping hand can be. He not only takes John under his wing, but also offers Bailey a new job at his tattoo shop. Even though they are completely drawn to each other. Bailey and Cash both haven’t had easy lives growing up, and they have such a realistic bond and attraction to each other, and it makes it completely impossible not to root for them. Especially when Cash invites Bailey to his mom’s for Christmas, since she would be all by herself. But Cash has a policy; he only will date a woman for ninety days before he calls it quits, because he refuses to truly ever let anyone in.

“Funny; he’d been a hell of a lot more charming when she was just serving him coffee.”

But the romance in this is seriously perfect. This book is only a tiny bit over two-hundred pages, but I think I was smiling, or crying, or smiling and crying on every single one. This book is funny, this book is swoon-worthy, and this book has so many important themes; from Cash and Bailey starting an interracial relationship, to Bailey also being plus sized, to it also staring a homeless, queer character, to showing that the terrible things that happen to us in the past do not have to dictate what we become in the future, to really celebrating abuse survivors (from physical abuse to neglect), this book is a damn gift to the world. I also think this story has a main character on the autism spectrum, but it doesn’t say the word(s) on page.

Overall, this was just a treat to read. And this epilogue? 11/10. This story was just so sex positive and steamy, so funny and so endearing, so enthralling and so un-put-downable. And Bailey is the female protagonist I’ve always wanted, she’s strong, and brave, and so empathetic! Ah, this book just had it all; I only wish it was longer! This is the best holiday romance I’ve ever read, and I hope you all pick this up this holiday season.

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Content and trigger warnings for talk of cancer, talk of past domestic violence, talk of past child abuse, and talk of past statutory rape.

Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

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ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Do not cling to the hand that holds you down”

Empress of All Seasons is an ownvoices Japanese fantasy that was a complete delight to read. I was completely immersed from the very first page, and the last page left me wanting the next book immediately. But this is a tale of family (both found and blood), and honor (both given and earned), and love (unconditionally and conditionally).

The emperor is a human who rules this world and is cruel and demands power in every aspect of his life. In this world, there are many kinds of yōkai, who can turn into different kinds of animals, phantoms, monsters, and demons, and the emperor enslaves all that he can find. The emperor also lives in a magical palace, where there are four rooms controlled by the High Priest, one for each season, that are also incredibly cruel.

And the emperor is looking to marry off his heir, and the only way for him to find a worthy empress is for her to win a competition that will make the girl prove she can survive these four magical rooms and to beat each season’s punishments. It is a little reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Red Rising, but each girl is required to get a limited number scroll, that will be found once they figure out a riddle, to move onto the next room.

“The rules were simple: Survive the Rooms. Conquer the Seasons. Win the prince.”

Mari – Yōkai, whose mother, Tami, is the alpha of their Animal Wives clan. Mari has grown up surrounded by beautiful women whose mission is to go and seduce the richest of men in their animal form, and then on their wedding night steal everything that they can and bring it back to the village. And sometimes when they come back, they will also be pregnant from that night. If they deliver a boy child, it will be sent away, but if they deliver a girl child, then they will be able to retire and prepare their daughter for the way and life of Animal Wives. And even though Mari’s mother is the most beautiful and powerful of the clan, Mari didn’t inherit the looks or the powerful animal form of her mother. But Tami has prepared Mari to be powerful in another way; to be skilled in fighting and to maybe win a competition that will be the greatest heist of all the Animal Wives.

Taro – The Cold Prince, and the Emperor in waiting, but his father, the current emperor, is terribly cruel while Taro is terribly smart. He accidentally invented and crafted metal collars that enslaves all of the yōkai that his father uses to control them.

Akira – The Son of Nightmares. Half of his face is terribly scarred, and the other side perfectly beautiful. His father was a trader, but his mother is a ghost, and they were forced to flee and live in hiding after their village attacked them. He keeps all of Mari’s secrets, and helps save all the people that she defeats during her training, when she should be killing them. Also, he is so very silent and able to sneak around like no one else.

Hanako – Weapons Master and love of my life. She is also leading the yōkai resistance. I want an entire book of her and her white ferret. Also, she is queer. I will say that this book maybe had the “bury your gays” trope, but you never get confirmation, but it for sure feels like it. So, please use caution, and I wish I didn’t have to keep writing this in reviews in 2018. Also, I really recommend you all check out Acqua’s review, because they go way more in depth with the heteronormativity in this world, and it really opened my eyes.

“We’ve been pushed around and forced into quiet rooms our whole lives. Nobody’s ever asked us what we wanted. The prize isn’t the prince. It’s the power.”

This was a really compelling story that I never wanted to put down. And I really think that Emiko Jean has created such a beautiful start to a story that I cannot wait to read more of. From the magic of the rooms, to seeing these four characters live the lives they have been dealt, to seeing this beautiful world turn into something so scary because of one man’s hate and oppression, I just loved it all so much.

“Men are conditioned to take. Women are conditioned to give.”

I will say that this book for sure has major instalove and it didn’t feel organic or believable in the slightest. Also, Taro as a character easily won me over because of his softness at the beginning, but I really grew to find him unbelievable and just kind of dislike him and it made me sad, honestly. I also think this was supposed to feel like an angsty love triangle, but it never really felt like it. But Mari, Akira, and Hanako are still everything. Also, I can’t wait for more Hiro either!

Overall, I can’t wait to see what comes next. I thought it was beautifully written, and I was able to pull so many breathtaking quotes from the ARC copy I had. I loved so many of these characters. The story was unique and so very enthralling. And I loved the Japanese mythology and culture that was always at the forefront of this story. I completely recommend this story, and I truly think it is the start of something that is going to be amazing.


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

Content and trigger warnings for murder, death, loss of a loved one, parental abuse, physical abuse, torture, captivity, slavery, abandonment, drugging, self-harm, blood depictions, and thoughts of suicide.

Buddy read with May at Forever and Everly, Lily at Sprinkles of Dreams, and Amy at A Court of Crowns and Quills! ❤

 

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

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ARC provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review.

“Deciding to spend your life together shouldn’t be a surprise”

I loved The Wedding Date earlier this year, and when I found out that this was going to star one of the side characters I knew I couldn’t resist putting in an ARC request. This was a joy to read, from the first page to the last. Both of Jasmine’s books have been so intelligently, beautifully, and masterfully crafted.

The Proposal is an ownvoices novel that follows a woman who is completely blindsided by a marriage proposal at Dodger Stadium. Yet, before the camera crews come in to make a terrible situation even worse, she is saved by a stranger in the stands, and his sister.

Nikole Paterson – Black, freelance journalist, and the woman who just got surprise proposed to after only five months of dating her partner.

Carlos Ibarra – Latino, pediatrician, the stranger in the stands that we already were introduced to in The Wedding Date.

And we get to see these two build a friendship, and maybe something more, after everything went down at Dodger Stadium. Neither one of them are at a point in their life where they are willing to start something new, but they have each other’s backs and prove that they are there for one another.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Nik and Carlos with my whole heart, but Nik’s friends almost stole the show for me in this novel. Dana is an actress, black, and a lesbian, and has the freakin’ cutest f/f side romance ever. Like, please, I need a full-length novel right this second. And Courtney is a cupcake shop owner, Asian, and plus sized. And I think I had a smile from ear-to-ear every time she was on the page. Seriously, Nik, Dana, and Courtney are the definition of friendship goals and it was a joy to read.

But probably my favorite thing in this book were the seamlessly woven important themes. There was also such a subtle, yet loud, message about how easy it is to not realize you are in an emotionally abusive relationship. And sometimes you don’t start to realize until you are completely secluded from your friends and family. Yet, it also shows that there always can be ways out, even if you have to wait a while, and that it is never too late once you realize when someone is being abusive.

There was also such a beautiful discussion about how important it is to reclaim your safety after you have been violated or felt that it was threatened. Throughout this story, we see Nik take those steps, and it just meant a lot to me, personally. I also loved how she had friends helping along the way.

The reason I did end up giving this four stars, and not five, was because I felt like Carlos acted a little questionably at the end. Trust me, it pains me to say, because I do love him so much. Yet, with the way he and Nik met, you would think that he would understand how she would react to a (quicker) repeat. I’m trying to be vague, but his actions just left me side-eyeing a little at the end, and just dampened my enjoyment overall.

Yet, I still loved this book, and I think Jasmine Guillory is such an impressive author. I can’t wait to read any and everything she writes. The romance world just needs more books like The Proposal and The Wedding Date! I completely recommend this one!


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The quote above was taken from an ARC and is subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for public humiliation, racist comments (always in a negative light and challenged), talk of past emotional abuse, brief assault (slap on the butt), talk of past loss of a loved one, brief mention of child abuse, brief mention of past miscarriage, and pregnancy complications.

Buddy Read with Lilly, Stephanie, & Leigh! ❤

❤ I also read this for Contemporary-a-thon!