“My Mechanical Romance” by Alexene Farol Follmuth (Review)

Follmuth, Alexene Farol. My Mechanical Romance. New York: Holiday House, 2022.

ISBN-13: 978-0823450107 | $18.99 USD | 266 pages | YA Contemporary Romance 

Blurb

Opposites attract in this battle-robot-building YA romance from the NYT best-selling author of The Atlas Six.

Bel would rather die than think about the future. College apps? You’re funny. Extracurriculars? Not a chance. But when she accidentally reveals a talent for engineering at school, she’s basically forced into joining the robotics club. Even worse? All the boys ignore Bel—and Neelam, the only other girl on the team, doesn’t seem to like her either.

Enter Mateo Luna, captain of the club, who recognizes Bel as a potential asset—until they start butting heads. Bel doesn’t care about Nationals, while Teo cares too much. But as the nights of after-school work grow longer and longer, Bel and Teo realize they’ve made more than just a combat-ready robot for the championship: they’ve made each other and the team better. Because girls do belong in STEM.

In her YA debut, Alexene Farol Follmuth, author of The Atlas Six (under the penname Olivie Blake), explores both the challenges girls of color face in STEM and the vulnerability of first love with unfailing wit and honesty. With an adorable, opposites-attract romance at its center and lines that beg to be read aloud, My Mechanical Romance is swoonworthy perfection.

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

Review 

3 stars 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. Review based on final copy. All opinions are my own. 

I requested My Mechanical Romance based on the cover and premise alone, not realizing that Alexene Farol Follmuth was also Olivie Blake at the time. I really didn’t get the hype for The Atlas Six, and had DNFed it, but hoped this was a case where I simply preferred her writing in one genre over the other. Unfortunately, while I appreciate what she was trying to do here, I didn’t gel with it. 

I do like the general intent. While I don’t feel drawn to any STEM fields myself, I am aware of the sexism within those industries…and how it can be worse when you’re a woman of color due to being doubly marginalized. Bel personally faces accusations of being the “token woman of color” and being added to the robotics team solely for “diversity points,” something that is very common to hear in this day and age, instead of pausing to consider the merit people like her add, due to their talent and diverse background. 

Bel is also generally relatable in her own right, because of how she expresses what it’s like to be a child of divorce. I appreciate how she attempts to handle it in the most mature way possible, with the acknowledgment that this change in family dynamics has had a major impact on her. 

Teo is ok, but definitely suffered from the book being a bit too short to delve into his story equally. The romance is cute, but this is yet another book that dramatically oversells the rivalry aspect, when it’s incredibly tame. 

And I don’t know if it’s the way that the author writes about academics and technical things that just puts me off or what, but that seems to be the common denominator here and with TAS. The latter book went hard in terms of the “magical academics” to the point where I didn’t care about the many characters introduced. And here, while the smaller main cast made it easier to connect with them, the depiction of robotics dragged the book down for me. 

So, while this book didn’t entirely work for me, it’s probably a reflection of my issues with the author’s style and choices more than anything else. This is a great book unpacking the issues of young women of color in STEM fields, and I can see why it resonates for that reason. 

Author Bio

Alexene Farol Follmuth is a first-generation American, a romance enthusiast, Ana a lover and writer of stories. Alexene has penned a number of adult SFF projects under the name Olivie Blake, including the webtoon Clara and the Devil and the BookTok-viral The Atlas Six. My Mechanical Romance is her YA debut. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, new baby, and rescue pit bull. Find her at https://www.alexenefarolfollmuth.com.

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“The Charmed List” by Julie Abe (Review)

Abe, Julie. The Charmed List. New York: Wednesday Books, 2022.

ISBN-13: 978-1250830098 | $18.99 USD | 304 pages | YA Contemporary/Fantasy Romance 

Blurb

“The best friends to enemies-to-lovers story I needed in my life! The Charmed List utterly enchants with its delightful characters and heartfelt themes of family, friendship, and first love. I adored this fun-filled and swoony road trip romance with a magical twist!” Axie Oh, author of XOXO and The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea

Sometimes you need a little magic to fall in love
.

Ellie Kobata has spent most of high school on the sidelines, keeping her art Instagram private and shying away from the world. She can’t even tell her only friend, Lia, who she really is: Ellie is part of a secret magical community, and no one outside of it can know it exists. The only person Ellie could fully relate to was Jack Yasuda – her childhood friend who mysteriously started to snub her a few years ago.

But before senior year, Ellie is ready to take some risks and have a life-changing summer, starting with her Anti-Wallflower List – thirteen items she’s going to check off one by one. With this list, she hopes to finally come out of her shell; even though she can’t share her full self with the world. But when number four on Ellie’s list goes horribly wrong—revenge on Jack Yasuda—she’s certain her summer is cursed. Instead of spending her summer with Lia, Ellie finds herself stuck in a car with Jack driving to a magical convention. But as Ellie and Jack travel down the coast of California, number thirteen on her list—fall in love—may be happening without her realizing it.

In The Charmed List, Julie Abe sweeps readers away to a secret magical world, complete with cupcakes and tea with added sparks of joy, and an enchanted cottage where you can dance under the stars.

Review 

4 stars 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own.

The Charmed List promises a lot of magical fun, and it definitely delivers. I got instant nostalgia for Wizards of Waverly Place in the way the magic is incorporated here, including the way the fear of the discovery of the existence of magic is baked into the story, including a reveal to Ellie’s best friend (which doesn’t go as well as it did in Wizards, unfortunately). 

Ellie is a relatable protagonist, and I love how she has a pretty clear plan for how she hopes to shed her “wallflower” reputation. The “bucket list” setup makes for a cool structure to set the book around, and I love that the story sees her coming out of her shell and accomplishing her goals in ways she did not expect. 

I felt a bit more mixed on the romance. I did eventually come to like it, but the dynamics between her and Jack at the start feel very petty. I guess that’s more excusable in YA, given younger people don’t always make the best decisions, but I still kind of wanted more substance to their falling-out. That said, once they have to hang out again, the story makes good use of forced proximity to bring them back together. And once that happens and they’re on their road trip, I did like seeing them reconnecting. 

I really liked this, and look forward to reading more from Julie Abe in the near future. If you enjoy romcoms with a hint of magic, I think you’ll enjoy this one. 

Author Bio

Julie Abe writes magical adventures for readers of all ages, including the EVA EVERGREEN, SEMI-MAGICAL WITCH middle grade fantasy series; the middle grade fantasy ALLIANA, GIRL OF DRAGONS; and the young adult novel THE CHARMED LIST. Keep up with Julie’s latest books and adventures on instagram.com/julieabebooks or sign up for her newsletter at julieabebooks.com/newsletter.

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“Summer at the Cape” by RaeAnne Thayne (Review)

Thayne, RaeAnne. Summer at the Cape. Toronto, Ontario: HQN, 2022.

ISBN-13: 978-1335936356 | $26.99 USD | 336 pages | Women’s Fiction

Blurb

From the beloved bestselling author of Season of Wonder and The Cliff House  comes a poignant and uplifting novel about forgiveness, family and all the complications—and joy  that come with it 

As the older sibling to identical twins Violet and Lily, Cami Porter was always the odd sister out. The divide grew even wider when their parents split up—while the twins stayed in Cape Sanctuary with their free-spirited mother, Rosemary, fourteen-year-old Cami moved to LA with her attorney father. Nearly twenty years later, when Cami gets the terrible news that Lily has drowned saving a child’s life, her mother begs her to return home to help untangle the complicated estate issues her sister left behind.

Navigating their own strained relationship, Cami readjusts to the family and community she hasn’t known for decades, including the neighbor who stands in the way of her late sister’s dream, while Violet grieves the loss of her twin and struggles to figure out who she is now, without her other half, as the little girl Lily saved pulls her back into the orbit of the man she once loved.

With poignancy and heart, RaeAnne Thayne once again delivers her charming signature blend of warmth, wit and wisdom.

Review 

4 stars 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. Review based on final copy.  All opinions are my own. 

While I haven’t made the time to dig too deeply into RaeAnme Thayne’s backlist, I already love how she captures the small-town cozy vibes. And with Summer at the Cape, she does so again perfectly, with the addition of the summer weather. 

While this book does lean more toward the women’s/general fiction side of the spectrum, Thayne’s background in romance allows her to write a compelling romantic arc, as well the more prominent, complex  relationships among family. Nothing feels underdone, neglected, or superfluous. 

I really liked both Cami and Violet, and the articulation of how they experienced their family dynamics then. The passing of Violet’s twin, Lily, has deeply changed said dynamics, particularly for Violet, as she was always closest to Lily, and struggling to figure out what her path is without her other half in her life. Meanwhile, there’s Cami, who never experienced the same closeness, and also lived separately from the twins and their mother for years after their mother divorced their father. Her story is otherwise fairly familiar: the city-girl who falls in love with the small town. However, it’s the personal, familial touches that make her story stand out. 

Both Cami and Violet have romances that complement their personal arcs, and they are both well executed. Cami’s love interest, Jon, is an additional point of view, offering another perspective outside that of the two sisters. His story is very similar to Cami’s, in that he has also returned to tend to family business. Their respective love and care for their families serves to help bring them together, even as there are some things that initially cause tension. And Violet’s second chance romance in the wake of her grief is so beautiful, and I rooted for her to take the chance on love.

This book hits all the right notes, being sweet and heartfelt. If you enjoy a contemporary with a primary focus on family relationships and drama, with a generous helping of romance, I recommend giving this one a try. 

Author Bio

New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and #1 Publishers Weekly bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne has written more than 70 books since selling her first book in 1995. She has received a career achievement award from Romantic Times for series romantic adventure, as well as a Pioneer of Romance award. She finds inspiration from the beautiful mountains of northern Utah, where she lives with her family.

Her books have been described as “poignant and sweet,” with “beautiful, honest storytelling (that) goes straight to the heart.”

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“Nura and the Immortal Palace” by M.T. Khan (ARC Review)

Khan, M.T. Nura and the Immortal Palace. New York: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2022.

ISBN-13: 978-0759557956 | $16.99 USD | 272 pages | MG Fantasy 

Blurb

Aru Shah and the End of Time meets Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away in this mesmerizing portal fantasy that takes readers into the little-known world of Jinn.

Nura longs for the simple pleasure of many things—to wear a beautiful red dupatta or to bite into a sweet gulab. But with her mom hard at work in a run-down sweatshop and three younger siblings to feed, Nura must spend her days earning money by mica mining. But it’s not just the extra rupees in her pocket Nura is after. Local rumor says there’s buried treasure in the mine, and Nura knows that finding it could change the course of her family’s life forever.

Her plan backfires when the mines collapse and four kids, including her best friend, Faisal, are claimed dead. Nura refuses to believe it and shovels her way through the dirt hoping to find him. Instead, she finds herself at the entrance to a strange world of purple skies and pink seas—a portal to the opulent realm of jinn, inhabited by the trickster creatures from her mother’s cautionary tales. Yet they aren’t nearly as treacherous as her mother made them out to be, because Nura is invited to a luxury jinn hotel, where she’s given everything she could ever imagine and more.

But there’s a dark truth lurking beneath all that glitter and gold, and when Nura crosses the owner’s son and is banished to the working quarters, she realizes she isn’t the only human who’s ended up in the hotel’s clutches. Faisal and the other missing children are there, too, and if Nura can’t find a way to help them all escape, they’ll be bound to work for the hotel forever.Set in a rural industrial town in Pakistan and full of hope, heart, and humor, Nura and the Immortal Palace is inspired by M.T. Khan’s own Pakistani Muslim heritage.

Review 

4 stars 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own.

I didn’t really know what to expect going into Nura and the Immortal Palace, but I was drawn in by the cover and blurb. Upon reading it, I was enraptured by the story that unfolded, but also deeply moved. Through the juxtaposition of reality and fantasy, there’s a poignant message about child labor. 

I love how steeped in Pakistani-Muslim culture the book is, and how it does so without talking down to the reader. The primary audience is kids and their families who grew up with these stories, but it’s equally enticing for those who don’t have the same background. 

Nura is an incredibly relatable protagonist. She sees her mother working hard in an exploitative situation to support her and the rest of the family, and she also has to do her bit to contribute as the oldest. She strikes a great balance of being a good sister, wanting to look after all her siblings, yet also having her own desires that get the better of her as she’s tempted. But even as she dreams about more, it’s always with her family in mind. 

This is a really beautiful book that touches on difficult real-world issues delicately for a younger audience. If you enjoy multicultural middle grade adventures, I recommend picking this one up. 

Author Bio

M.T. Khan is a speculative fiction author with a penchant for all things myth, science, and philosophy. She focuses on stories that combine all three, dreaming of evocative worlds and dark possibilities.

When she’s not writing, M.T. Khan has her nose deep in physics textbooks or glued to her CAD computer as she majors in Mechanical Engineering. Born in Lahore, Pakistan, she currently resides in Toronto, Canada, with a hyperactive cat and an ever-increasing selection of tea.

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“Firestarter” (Timekeeper #3) by Tara Sim (Review)

Sim, Tara. Firestarter. New York: Sky Pony, 2019.

ISBN-13: 978-1510758797Amazon | $12.99 USD | 528 pages | YA Steampunk/Fantasy

Blurb

The crew of the Prometheus is intent on taking down the world’s clock towers so that time can run freely. Now captives, Colton, Daphne, and the others have a stark choice: join the Prometheus’s cause, or fight back in any small way they can and face the consequences. But Zavier, leader of the terrorists, has a bigger plan—to bring back the lost god of time.

As new threats emerge, loyalties must shift. No matter where the Prometheus goes—Prague, Austria, India—nowhere is safe, and every second ticks closer toward the eleventh hour. Walking the line between villainy and heroism, each will have to choose what’s most important: saving those you love at the expense of the many, or making impossible sacrifices for the sake of a better world.

Review 

4 stars 

Firestarter is the final book in the Timekeeper trilogy, and I am mostly satisfied with how things have progressed and come to a close. I do have some quibbles, but they’re pretty minor. 

Danny remains a sympathetic and likable lead. He has his moments where he struggles with his own traumas, and the jealousy that has lingered since book one remains an issue for him. However, he’s ultimately a good person who continues to face a lot of adversity, and that makes him hard to ever dislike. 

Colton continues to get more development, as his past is explored even more. I loved exploring what he went through in the past and seeing how he’s been processing his own trauma beneath this veneer of being the happy-go-lucky clock-spirit. 

The supporting cast has been growing quite a bit over the last two books, and as much as I liked the perspectives it opened the story up to, it did sometimes feel a tad crowded. Aside from Daphne, who I really like, I don’t know if I was that invested in some of the supporting cast, though I do appreciate what each brought to the story on a technical level. 

The plot this time around is compelling, and it doesn’t feel like it’s an over-500 page book. There’s already pretty decent stakes going into the book and it ramps up intensely as it goes on. 

I enjoyed this trilogy quite a bit, and would recommend it to fans of YA fantasy or alternate history. 

Author Bio

Tara Sim is a YA and adult fantasy author found in the wilds of the Bay Area, California. When she’s not writing about magic, murder, and mayhem, she drinks tea and wrangles cats.

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“What Souls Are Made Of: A Wuthering Heights Remix” by Tasha Suri (ARC Review)

Suri, Tasha. What Souls Are Made Of: A Wuthering Heights Remix. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2022.

ISBN-13: 978-1250773500 | $18.99 USD | 304 pages | YA Historical Romance 

Blurb

What Souls Are Made Of, British Fantasy Award-winning author Tasha Suri’s masterful new take on Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and fourth book in the Remixed Classics, will leave readers breathless.

Sometimes, lost things find their way home…

Yorkshire, North of England, 1786. As the abandoned son of a lascar—a sailor from India—Heathcliff has spent most of his young life maligned as an “outsider.” Now he’s been flung into an alien life in the Yorkshire moors, where he clings to his birth father’s language even though it makes the children of the house call him an animal, and the maids claim he speaks gibberish.

Catherine is the younger child of the estate’s owner, a daughter with light skin and brown curls and a mother that nobody talks about. Her father is grooming her for a place in proper society, and that’s all that matters. Catherine knows she must mold herself into someone pretty and good and marriageable, even though it might destroy her spirit.

As they occasionally flee into the moors to escape judgment and share the half-remembered language of their unknown kin, Catherine and Heathcliff come to find solace in each other. Deep down in their souls, they can feel they are the same.

But when Catherine’s father dies and the household’s treatment of Heathcliff only grows more cruel, their relationship becomes strained and threatens to unravel. For how can they ever be together, when loving each other—and indeed, loving themselves—is as good as throwing themselves into poverty and death?

Review 

5 stars 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own. 

I have had mixed feelings about Wuthering Heights over the years: on the one hand, it does a wonderful job exploring the impact of childhood trauma on the major characters, and how it carries on through generations. But at the same time, the central love story is built around characters whose mutual obsession leads to the tragedies that befall them. And they’re just not that sympathetic, especially when filtered through the eyes of others. But in What Souls Are Made Of, Tasha Suri manages to capture the nuances of these two incredibly flawed characters, giving them both a chance to speak their own truths and find a way back to each other. 

While the original text was more vague about Heathcliff’s origins (and many adaptations have whitewashed him), I love the exploration of his past as a child of a lascar. There’s still a sense of mystery there, but his ethnic identity is more defined. It also helps to substantiate his connection to Cathy, who is biracial. Suri tackles the sensitive issue of straddling two cultures with care from their two perspectives. 

And her identity also plays a role in Cathy’s indecision, as we find her on the precipice of her decision of whether she will accept Edgar Linton’s proposal. To accept and marry him will mean entering “civilized” society, but it will also mean conforming to their norms and suppressing her “wilder” nature…not to mention abandoning Heathcliff. And despite him not having any current connection to his birth father, Heathcliff retains his connection to his Indian roots in spite of being raised within British society (and being subjected to abuse from his foster brother Hindley), and the fear of Cathy’s rejection of him and their shared heritage leads him to flee. 

I really liked how Suri reworked that initial inciting incident of Heathcliff overhearing a partial comment from Cathy which appeared to disparage him, and believably changed the events that followed. The sense of indecision on her part, the search for his own worth on his part, and their mutual longing for each other…it’s all so well-rendered. 

This is the best book of the Remixed Classics series so far, although I am very likely biased on this front. Whether you’re a fan of the original or not, this is a fabulous reimagining that both does it justice and remedies some of the major story issues. 

CWs: physical and emotional abuse, child endangerment, forced family separation, racism, famine and hunger, slavery, parental death/bereavement, alcoholism, mental illness

Author Bio

Tasha Suri is an award-winning author, occasional librarian, and cat owner. Her South Asian-influenced epic fantasy novels include The Books of Ambha duology (Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash) and The Jasmine Throne. When she isn’t writing, Tasha likes to cry over TV shows, buy too many notebooks, and indulge her geeky passion for South Asian history. She lives with her family in a mildly haunted house in London. What Souls Are Made Of: A Wuthering Heights Remix is her YA debut.

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“Dog Friendly” by Victoria Schade (ARC Review)

Schade, Victoria. Dog Friendly. New York: Berkley, 2022.

ISBN-13: 978-0593437391 | $16.00 USD | 352 pages | Women’s Fiction 

Blurb

“Perfect to read on the beach.” –The Boston Globe

A burned-out veterinarian takes a much-needed beach vacation, where a charming surfer makes waves in her love life, and a unique foster pup renews her passion for her work.


Exhausted veterinarian Morgan Pearce is feeling overworked and under-thanked, so when two favorite clients ask her to watch their special needs senior dog in their Nantucket home, she jumps at the chance for a summer break. She hopes her time on the island will be a reset from the stress of her everyday life, but her chill vacation vibe takes a hit when she gets roped into fostering a challenging, anxious dog and helping plan the local rescue group’s glittery annual fundraiser.

Her trip starts to feel more like a vacation when Morgan begins falling for Nathan Keating, an irresistible entrepreneur who thinks every problem can be solved on a surfboard. Just as the summer is shaping up to be the magical refresh she needs, thanks to a fling that feels like the beginning of something real and Hudson, the foster dog who reminds her how much she loves her job, a visit from her estranged brother and the discovery of who Nathan really is changes everything. Morgan finds herself at a crossroads, trying to determine if mistakes from the past must define the future, or if she should forgive, forget, and grab hold of a chance to finally rescue herself.

Review 

3 stars 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own. 

Dog Friendly is a sweet, heartwarming read, in some ways like hugging a dog in itself. Victoria Schade has a background as a dog trainer, and her love for dogs shines through the pages of this book. 

As such, the best part of the book is that of the heroine, Morgan, with dogs…on multiple fronts. The general premise and theme sees her struggling with burnout while working as a veterinarian, and I appreciated how this was rendered. Seeing her journey as she takes time for herself, taking a vacation and even starting therapy, is life-affirming. 

She also simultaneously is dog-sitting for a friend, taking on their aging dog that has some anxiety issues. I really enjoyed seeing the two of them bonding and helping each other on their path to healing. 

But unfortunately, this is one of those books that is more “women’s fiction” than romance, and normally I wouldn’t be too bummed, if it didn’t keep happening (and it was properly categorized on NetGalley at least). Nathan lacked real substance for me, and I would have been completely happy if he never showed up and this had been a book solely about Morgan and her journey with the dogs. 

This book was fine, but the publisher’s marketing and categorization works against it (and while all publishers are playing a role in the blending of romance with women’s fiction/chick lit, Berkley is perhaps the worst offender). With the proper expectations, you might enjoy it more than I did. 

Author Bio

Victoria Schade is a dog trainer and speaker who serves as a dog resource for the media and has worked both in front of and behind the camera on Animal Planet, and as a trainer and wrangler on the channel’s popular Puppy Bowl specials. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, her dogs Millie and Olive, and the occasional foster pup.

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“Chainbreaker” (Timekeeper #2) by Tara Sim (Review)

Sim, Tara. Chainbreaker. New York: Sky Pony Press, 2018. 

ISBN-13: 978-1520738737 | $10.99 USD | 478 pages | YA Steampunk/Fantasy 

Blurb

You won’t be able to put this one down. —Huffington Post. “An elaborate tale of magic, gods, and the beautiful, unfortunate humans caught in an ancient titanic struggle. You’ll cheer. You’ll cry.” –Traci Chee, New York Times bestselling author

Clock mechanic Danny Hart knows he’s being watched. But by whom, or what, remains a mystery. To make matters worse, clock towers have begun falling in India, though time hasn’t Stopped yet. He’d hoped after reuniting with his father and exploring his relationship with Colton, he’d have some time to settle into his new life. Instead, he’s asked to investigate the attacks. 

After inspecting some of the fallen Indian towers, he realizes the British occupation may be sparking more than just attacks. And as Danny and Colton unravel more secrets about their past, they find themselves on a dark and dangerous path–one from which they may never return.

Review 

4 stars

Chainbreaker is the second book in the Timekeeper series, and it’s kind of an odd sequel. I liked it, but it feels very different from the first, despite following the same cast of characters. The dynamics are different, and I can see why some readers have been turned off by it. 

The central relationship of the last book was that of Danny and Colton, and now, we see them going on separate, yet linked adventures. The emotional core of the first book isn’t in this one, and I did feel this book suffered for it a bit. However, there’s still some well-written bits of longing that somewhat filled the void for me. 

At the same time, I did enjoy the character work done here, especially within the context of the issues depicted and ground covered. Getting more depth to Colton through exploration of his past is one of the  strong points. And while I was initially hesitant about Daphne taking page time from both Danny and Colton, I really liked getting to know her a bit more. 

I also like getting a sense of how this version of the world reckons with colonialism in India. Tara Sim explores both the atrocities committed and the efforts on the part of rebels to bring about freedom and justice. 

While this installment has been divisive, I could understand the reasoning behind the change in direction, and remain optimistic for the third. 

Author Bio

Tara Sim is a YA and adult fantasy author found in the wilds of the Bay Area, California. When she’s not writing about magic, murder, and mayhem, she drinks tea and wrangles cats.

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“Blood and Moonlight” by Erin Beaty (ARC Review)

Beaty, Erin. Blood and Moonlight. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux Books For Young Readers, 2022.

ISBN-13: 978-1250755810 | $18.99 USD | 352 pages | YA Fantasy Thriller 

Blurb

In Erin Beaty’s fantasy mystery-thriller, Blood and Moonlight, an orphan with a secret, magical sight gets caught between a mysterious genius and the serial killer he’s hunting.

Rising above the city of Collis is the holy Sanctum. And watching over its spires is Catrin, an orphan girl with unique skills—for she alone can spot the building’s flaws in construction before they turn deadly.

But when Catrin witnesses a murderer escaping the scene of his crime, she’s pulled into a dangerous chain of events where the only certainty is that the killer will strike again. Assigned to investigate is the mysterious and brilliant Simon, whose insights into the mind of a predator are frighteningly accurate.

As the grisly crimes continue, Catrin finds herself caught between killer and detective while hiding her own secret—a supernatural sight granted by the moon, destined to make her an outcast, and the only thing that might save her and those she loves from becoming the next victims…

Review 

4 stars 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own. 

Blood and Moonlight simultaneously evokes two of my major fictional genre loves: gritty mystery/thrillers and fantasy worlds with historical aesthetics, so I ate this up. The world evokes medieval French vibes, and I love getting a sense of the Sanctum and its environs as the intense events occur within them. 

The mystery is central to the plot, and it evokes vibes of Jack the Ripper and other notorious historical killers. It’s not afraid to describe crime scenes and violence, and while it’s not done distastefully, it’s still not for the faint of heart. 

I appreciate that there’s an effort to also make both a textual statement about mental health issues (particularly schizophrenia) and the legacy of misunderstanding it through supporting cast members. And based on her author’s note, Beaty clearly cares about the subject deeply, and to do so in a crime novel also challenges dated stereotypes. 

Catrin is a sympathetic, yet flawed lead. I love when protagonists can acknowledge their prejudices and grow from them. And Simon makes for a great counterpart for her, as while he is arrogant, some of his experiences help in Catrin’s growth. And he’s also just the sweetest, most dedicated person at heart, with a single-minded focus on finding the killer. 

I really enjoyed this book, and am eager to try more from Erin Beaty in the future (I’ve heard pretty good things about the Traitor’s Circle series!). If you enjoy fantasy with historical aesthetic settings and intense mystery/thriller plots, I recommend this one. 

Author Bio

Erin Beaty was born and raised in Indianapolis and studied aerospace engineering at the US Naval Academy. After tours as a weapons officer on a destroyer and a leadership instructor, she quit the Navy to raise five kids, and once they were all in school, her brain didn’t know what to do with that much free time so she started writing books. She also teaches fiction classes sort the Armed Services Arts Partnership as well as the Muse Writers Center in Norfolk, Virginia. She and her husband make a home wherever the Navy sends them, which has ranged from Kansas to Korea.

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“The Unmatchmakers” by Jackie Lau (Review) of

Lau, Jackie. The Unmatchmakers. Toronto, Ontario: Rakuten Kobo, 2022.

ISBN-13: 978-1774538463 | $4.99 USD | 183 pages | Contemporary Romance 

Blurb

From the author of DONUT FALL IN LOVE comes a perfect summer love story set in the forested paradise of Canadian cottage country that asks the question: can love beat the odds when the odds are two mothers dead-set against it?

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You’d think my mother would be trying to set me up with architect Neil Choy, the unmarried son of her best friend. But you’d be wrong.

My single mother has always been fiercely independent. Since I was a small child, she’s always told me not to believe in fairy tales and that I don’t need a man. So she’s failed to mention that Neil is a total hottie in glasses. When I see him for the first time in a decade, on a multi-family cottage vacation, I’m in for quite a shock. (In fact, I nearly fall in the lake, but let’s keep that a secret.)

He sure can grill a mean steak and mix a killer cocktail, plus he’s pretty impressive in a kayak. Yes, he’s a little stern and grumpy, but that just makes him more fun to tease—and makes it more satisfying when he quirks his lips in my direction.

Even though my mind is spinning romantic fantasies, I’m not entirely sure how he feels. And I’m afraid that if anything happens between us, it’ll screw up the friendship between our staunchly anti-relationship mothers. Especially since they’ve been acting increasingly weird since we arrived—I will never forgive them for the S’mores Incident. In fact, I think they’re trying to sabotage my love life, and I’m starting to worry that I won’t make it through this bizarre summer vacation…

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Perfect for fans of Helen Hoang’s THE BRIDE TEST and THE DONUT TRAP by Julie Tieu, THE UNMATCHMAKERS is a forced-proximity, friends-to-lovers romantic comedy that explores finding the balance of meeting expectations and being true to yourself, and how even the best of intentions can sometimes backfire.

Review 

4 stars 

I received an ARC  from the publisher via NetGalley and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own. 

The Unmatchmakers is a fun reverse tale on the meddling, matchmaking Asian mother trope, in that the mothers of the lead, Leora, and her love interest, Neil, are determined to keep them apart. It’s an intriguing dynamic, especially given the mothers are longtime friends. 

I was a bit confused as to the direction this was going at first, as while the blurb indicated Leora would be the primary perspective, I wasn’t sure how the mothers’ meddling would come through. However, it became more apparent as I kept reading, and I liked witnessing the mothers’ antics from Leora’s perspective, as well as feeling like the reveal of the mothers’ own romantic woes was well-earned. 

And that juxtaposes quite nicely with the growing relationship between Leora and Neil. Their romance is largely built on a recognition of how much they’ve each respectively changed since they were kids, and while the focus is largely on physical attraction, there’s a lot of potential there once they get past all the family drama. 

This is a charming read, and while not my favorite of Jackie Lau’s, demonstrates her continued success in the multicultural  romcom sphere. If you’re looking for a fun, fast read with focus on family as well as romantic love, I recommend picking this one up. 

Author Bio

Jackie Lau decided she wanted to be a writer when she was in grade two, sometime between writing “The Heart That Got Lost” and “The Land of Shapes.” She later studied engineering and worked as a geophysicist before turning to writing romance novels.

Jackie lives in Toronto with her husband, and despite living in Canada her whole life, she hates winter. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking, hiking, eating too much gelato, and reading on the balcony when it’s raining.

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