Jade City by Fonda Lee

Ebook, 560 pages
Urban Fantasy, Adult, Romance
Trigger Warnings: Violence, Death, Drugs

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Honestly, I don’t think I have read many book that fall into the Urban Fantasy category. Maybe I just never found the appeal of mixing magic with big, concrete jungles or maybe I was just never recommended any or maybe (and this is the most possible of the three options), it got buried underneath the more popular books in my TBR. But rest assured, one of them has managed to claw itself out from under my TBR and I loved every single minute of it.

“Expectations are a funny thing,” Wen said. “When you’re born with them, you resent them, fight against them. When you’ve never been given any, you feel the lack of them your whole life.”

Jade City takes place in Kekon, an island just few decades ago, freed from the oppressive rule of the Shotarians. The island is home to two things- a race of people who can wield Jade to give themselves unimaginable heightened powers of Strength and the jade itself embedded into the very core of the island.

The book is primarily about Jade or rather the question of who controls its supply. Jade wielding warriors, called Green Bones, who fought together in the fight against Shotarians, in the present day are divided into two clans- The Mountain and No Peak. Both clans are trying to control the jade supply on and outside the island.

Kekon’s capital is a bustling city, filled with normal people doing their every day normal things. Under the normalcy of it all, there is an unsuspecting clan war brewing amongst the Green Bones clans. It seems that the days of peace are long past them, and all this fragile world of pseudo peace needs is one more thing to shatter it all.

“Heaven help me, Shae,” he whispered into her ear. “I’m going to kill them all.”

The book centers around the Kaul family consisting of Lan, the Pillar of the Clan, his Brother, Hilo who is the second in command and his Horn and his sister, Shae who abandoned her lineage and went abroad to study and has now returned.

I loved each of their characters. I love the depth Fonda has clearly poured into them, making them as malleable and humane as possible. I loved their intricate dynamics both outside and inside the clan. The two tier respect and behavior they reserved for Lan, one as Pillar demanding unquestionable loyalty, and another as their brother, with whom they joked with and cared for. Even Shae who had left her life and jade behind as a member of the clan and family, but discovers there is only so far a Kaul can run.

Lan’s destiny seemed to be written in the stars when he was passed the mantle from his ailing and quickly declining Grandfather. To whom, he tries so hard to live up to. Lan was probably the gentlest and kindest leader to have ever reigned No Peak. He went out of his way to steer the clan towards peace even when everyone around him, especially the enemies seemed hell bent on anything but that.

“Any old horse will run when it’s whipped, but only fast enough to avoid the whipping,” Hilo said. “Racehorses, though, they run because they look at the horse on their left, they look at the one on their right, and they think, No way am I second to these fuckers.”

I loved Hilo. I loved everything about his reckless boyish charms. His rugged features, how well and deep and unconditionally his love for those he deemed worthy of love and his deep rooted, undying loyalty towards his clan and members, the authority with his he reigns as horn and the soft and heart wrenchingly pure love towards the love of his life. I loved it all. How deep his love ran and the lengths he would go to to protect those he loved. Like a roaring fire, Hilo fought as he lived, alive in the most chaotic way.

“She thought, Two strong-minded women in a man’s world, if they do not quickly become allies, are destined to be incurable rivals.”

Another thing Fonda has done masterfully, is the female characters. They were raw, real and relatable. Whether it was Shae, a badass in her own right, Wen, who was limited in so many ways but didn’t let any of it deter her, or Ayt, the villain of this series. Each character was fleshed out and very real. From Shae’s reluctance to join back into the clan she left behind, to Wen who was limited as a Jade Immune Stone eye and from a disgraced family, to Ayt, who was ruthless but somehow justified in her means to her end. A trio of badass women in an environment where they shouldn’t have prevailed and yet somehow, they were equal to or sometimes even better than the men in the series.

“Screw you, Hilo,” she snapped. “I can kill my ex-boyfriends myself.”

I loved them as a family. As dysfunctional as most families, they came together when they were needed most. Hilo, who had resented his sister for abandoning them and running away with her lover and Shae, who never felt connected to the symbolic clan and all that would cost her. But blood does run thicker than water and when they needed to step, boy, do they step up.

And last, but definitely not least in any way, Anden Emery, a mixed blooded boy who the Kaul’s adopted. A cousin, not by blood but by bond to Lan, Hilo and Shae. Despite his tragic past, he is determined to live up to the Kaul’s name and this book is about his palpable trials and tribulations as its about the illegal Jade trade that leaks into the customary lives of Kekon’s clans.

Also, a special mention for not just the political side of this book but the business side. As a business and finance major, I can fully appreciate a well written finance references. You will be surprised how many times people screw it up.

All in all this book was a roller coaster ride. It was tense, and some parts had me screaming and some just made me want to puke. But at the end of the day, it was a good book with great characters, a good motive, clever characters that made sensible decisions and an overall good book. A mobster book with a fantasy element twisted in.

The Sword of Kaigen by M. L Wang

Ebook, 600 pages
High Fantasy, Fiction, Adult, Magic

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“Wholeness, she had learned, was not the absence of pain but the ability to hold it.”

Its always a indescribable pleasure to find a book so well written that you want to curl up into a ball with this book in hands and never let go. Not going to lie, when I read the deceptively simple synopsis, I had my misgivings about the book. It seemed well, unimpressive and somehow still faultless. But the one thing that made me pick it up, other that the constant nagging of my dear friend, Patch, was the fact that one of the characters was a nearly forty year old woman. And let me tell you, this book did not disappoint. This book was perfect. As if it was written just for me, it managed to tick every box that I could ever want in a book and then some more.

“We are the Sword of Kaigen. If we’ve let it rust, then we deserve to die on it, along with our enemies.”

This book is told from two very different point of views- Fourteen year old, Matsuda Mamoru, who is trying to live up to his family’s name as the fiercest warriors of the Kaigenese Empire and his mother, Misaki, who is trying to outrun her past as a warrior and vigilante in a foreign country.

“You learn over time that the world isn’t broken. It’s just… got more pieces to it than you thought. They all fit together, just maybe not the way you pictured when you were young.”

This book is a giant book, not just in its size, but in the way, that everything is told with the intricacy and potency of a well experienced author. From a widely intricate honeycomb world to amazingly well written action scenes (That I neither skipped not skimmed over, which is quite a feat for me), it succeeded in creating a world, like a spider’s web, touching upon every thing from religion, sexuality, faith, language to just fitting in and standing out. As I was reading, I thought of other fantasy writers who wrote worlds in the pages of their multiple series, something that M. L Wang manages to do in a single book. And she does so without it so effortlessly, never overflowing, never being too much. (Well, our tears were, but who’s counting that?)

Mamoru, who is a cinnamon ball come to life. He is naive and just so wholesomely good. His entire world sums up to mastering his family’s renowned martial arts move, The Whispering Blade, and living up to his family name. It seems so heavy to put this mantle on the shoulder’s of someone so young, but Mamoru carries it with such an grace and humility, you sometimes forgets that he is a mere child. In a word, Mamoru is bright. Not just by the fact that he is smart but as a human being, he shines with the goodness of his heart. He is humble, sweet and is so aware of what it means to be a Matsuda and to have power and never abuse it.

“Was the headmaster serious about challenging people to single combat? You guys really still do that?”

“How else would we settle our differences?”

“I don’t know. Talking?”

From the get go, it appears that his village is a backward, overlooked area of the country that still practices martial arts the rest of the country has now forgotten and moved on from. Mamoru’s world is turned upside down when a new classmate, Kwang Chul-hee, transfers from the big city. He is forced to confront uncomfortable truths about his country and its Government, one perhaps is very familiar to us all. From false propaganda to corruption, Mamoru finds himself spinning at the revelations that Kwang Chul- hee shares. Questions fill his mind. Questions that make him doubt everything he has ever been taught and ones that feel like betrayal to his patriotic duty to even think about.

She had thought she was water that could adjust to fill any container, be as strong in the shape of a mother as a warrior, but in the end, maybe Koli had been right about her. She was a knife, a sharp edge, that killed or cut anything it touched.

Misaki, had a life before she became the dutiful daughter-in-law to the Matsuda family. A life she had shed, like a snake sheds its old skin, and buried it deep underneath the floorboards of her new bedroom and in the four walls of her heart. In order to protect herself, she married a man so flippant and cold that she couldn’t even bear to look at him, let alone love him. She was so drawn from her current life like an animal trapped in its gilded cage, she didn’t fight, she didn’t even move, flinching away from life. She barely even saw her four children in any other way, than detached bemusement.

“Misaki tied the obsidian sword at her hip and realized how much she had ached for its weight there. A baby just wasn’t the same.”

Perhaps, its because I am, too, am a woman, I could relate so much to her. Her plight from her loveless marriage to having children who didn’t belong to her any more than her past now did. But what affected me the most was her the way she changed after her marriage, from a red hot smoldering coal, she transformed into a dull hard rock. She receded from herself, running away from herself, as one would from a burning building. She saw everything through a disassociated outlook. As if it was happening to someone else, somewhere far away. My heart ached for her and the way no one, including her husband saw her crumble.

What sort of a man closed his eyes to the world and called it clarity?

When I say I want to see character development, I mean this book and this book specifically. Misaki’s transformation from the shell of a woman to one so bright and unapologetic-ally heroic, is one to behold. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, she comes reeling back to protect her family. But more than that, surprisingly, is the redemption arc of Takeru. Now, is it really enemies to loves if they are married for nearly two decades?

“I like a bit of fighting. It’s silence I can’t stand.”

I wish I possessed Wang’s vocabulary and the ability to string words together to create a world so beautiful, that even today, nearly six months after reading the book, I can still see it with clarity. Wang handles the intricacies required in writing such a multifaceted novel, with an ease that most writers could only wish to possess. Her characters were relatable, incredibly well written and sublimely human, than too often they seem to be leaping off the pages of the book. The exploration of motherhood is done so candidly. The malleable balance between Misaki as a woman and Misaki as a mother is struck so jarringly that anyone would feel the sting of it all. Touching upon subjects like feminism racism, false propaganda with the flourish and still keeping it raw and honest, is an art.

In short, I loved this book. Reading it was one of the best uses of my time this year and I don’t regret it one bit.

Mid Year Freak Out Tag

I want to laugh out loud about how apt this tag name is- Mid-year Freak out! Whoever named this knew what they were doing. I mean, don’t we all have a tiny existential crisis when we notice the word, July? Like how, in the world, is it July? And that is shortly followed by, how have I done, absolutely nothing in these past six months? But existential crisis aside, this is a great way to unwind and remind ourselves, Hey! there is still six months left to do what we need to do (Which is apparently read more books, in my case).

Now, this year has been a weird one in my case, because for once in my life, I might just possibly (practically banging my head on wood so that I don’t jinx myself) finish my Goodreads 2021 Reading Challenge. So, please cross your fingers and toes and anything else you can cross!

My goal has always been 52 books and then, towards September end, when I realize there is no way I can finish 52 books in a year, I slowly and very slyly, update my goal to a more easier one. So, have I met my goals? Yes. But have I really met them? Never.

Books I have Read so far:

A whooping 22! (*insert Taylor Swift singing 22*)

I know! I am proud of myself too. I know, on the big huge scale of Goodreads readers and bloggers, my 22 was probably something most of them (you) would finish in a week. But for me, with 166 days left (As GR was kind enough to inform me), this is a huge win.

Favorite Book That You’ve Read So Far In 2021:

This is probably the hardest thing to ask me. I hate making decisions. And well, choosing the best book in a year where I have read a lot of good books isn’t easy. (My picking game was on an all time high this year.) But after a lot of thinking, I have decided that The Sword of Kaigen by M. L Wang was it.

It was so incredibly beautiful that I knew just as I finished it that no book I read would not come close enough to beating it. A standalone spin off to M. L Wang’s Theonite series. (And the answer to the age old question: No, you don’t need to read the series to understand and enjoy this masterpiece.) This book is told from rotating POV’s of Mamoru, who is trying to live up to his family’s name, and his mother, Misaki, who is trying to outrun her past.

“Wholeness, she had learned, was not the absence of pain but the ability to hold it.”

A beautifully crafted story in an equally beautifully crafted world. Its the perfect book to get lost inside and at the end, refuse to come out of.

Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far In 2021:

So, I am an idiot, who apparently has not read any sequels this year. Now, the chosen book (if you can call it that) is not much of a sequel as it is a short (emphasis on short) story.

Heracles’ Bow by Madeline Miller which is a sort of sequel to The Song of Achilles. In her usual heart breaking manner, Miller packs a punch in just a few pages, which really is a whole new low.

Story explains why Philoctetes, who was Heracles’ Archer, who inherited his bow and poisonous arrows, is left behind before the Trojan War, despite Heracles oath to defend Helen of Troy.

A testament to her writing and something you can finish reading in 15 minutes, its still an enjoyable and heartbreaking piece told in a magical, torturous way.

New Release You Want To Read But Haven’t Read Yet?

I am a simple woman. I see the name Taylor Jenkins Reid, I automatically add it to my TBR (Which might I add is becoming quite like the sun as each day passes by- I too can’t look at directly at it for too long or it gives me a headache).

My favorite by her will always be The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, which if you haven’t read, please do because it is great!

I hope to read this one this year just like I hope to read all of TJR’s other books. Anyway, lets hope for the best.

Most Anticipated Release of the Second Half of 2021:

So, every year I do this thing, where every Tuesday, I look up new releases and then, add them to my TBR. It got so bad that my TBR looked like a bloated whale while my Read Books stayed lean as a single stalk of sad celery.

Now, I was adamant this year to make a bump in TBR list and hence, didn’t bother looking at “New Releases” with the strong belief that if it was meant to find me, it would.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that no book did (I am not made of stone!). On the contrary, a lot of books did.

Jade Legacy is the third and final book in The Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee, of which I am currently reading the first book, Jade City.

Now, Am I enjoying it so much that despite not yet completing the first book I am eagerly waiting for the third one? No. I just didn’t have anything to add here.

Biggest Disappointment of the Year:

So, for a minute moment when I was going through my Read books, I couldn’t see any that I hated this year and I was quite amazed. Until my eyes fell on this book, that is.

I’ll admit, that me and Colleen have had a rough relationship. So, far, I have only liked one of her books, It Ends with Us. (Which apparently was the only one she wrote with her brain.)

This book, on paper, should have been right up my alley. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. And now, that I am painfully reminded of what an idiotic pathetic excuse for a book this really is, I have decided to write a rant review for this book to further encapsulate the sheer rage I felt reading this book. (Picture the rage you felt when watching the movie adaptation of Artemis Fowl and if you haven’t watched that terrible excuse for an adaptation, then, Percy Jackson which honestly wasn’t that much of a train wreck as the former.)

Biggest Surprise of the Year:

A book that surprised me in all honesty is, The Sword of Kaigen, but in the spirit of choosing a new book, I have picked The Priory of the Orange Tree, which also surprised me a lot.

I had heard a lot about this book before it released and most of the reviews rated it somewhere between 3-4.5 stars. But the main reason I didn’t want to pick up this book was its size. A whooping 850 pages! (Enough to kill a small bird, if you ask me.)

Now, told from multiple characters in different cities, it takes a minute to finally catch up with all of them and how they fit together. That, combined with a slow start, I can easily see why it was shedding stars. But soon, the book picks up and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. A decent 4 star read at the end.

New Favorite Author (Debut or New to You):

Almost all the books I read this year were by new authors (new to me) and well, all of them stand out in their own way.

However, Mary E. Pearson wrote one of the best enemies to lovers series, I have read so far- The Dance of Thieves. I loved her characters and her world she created. I loved the spunk each character had (even the side characters). I loved the way, the leads kept their agendas straight, even after falling head over heels for each other, which is such a rare quality in a book.

Underrated Gems You’ve Discovered This Year:

An easy choice but not an easy to read book. A List of Cages is very simply a punch to the gut. With poignant characters and a relationship that would make any grown man (or in this case, a very small yet stubborn woman) cry.

This book made my heart ache with each heavy page. The characters, who are all lovable cinnamon rolls, each with their own problems, were so relatable and incredibly well written.

With a trigger warning list as long as the river Nile, the book manages to exceed expectations and just carve out a whole in your heart.

Favorite Book to Movie Adaptation You’ve Seen This Year:

I have seen a lot of adaptations this year.

I saw Bridgerton, Firefly Lane, The Haunting of Hill House, Defending Jacob, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Shadow and Bone and Normal People and Behind her Eyes.

I also saw Witches, The Murder on the Orient Express, Matilda, Shawshank Redemption and Forrest Gump.

I think almost every blogger must have added Shadow and Bone as their favorite and I am no different. I eagerly waited for this show since its announcement and it did not disappoint. I loved Jesper’s character. My baby was adapted so well, I almost teared up.

Honestly, there are no words that can do my love for this show justice. An excellent adaptation and an even better show. I am on the edge of my seat the whole time. Oh, did I mention that I hate horror? And yet, I say this show is a must watch? Must mean something. (just saying.)
This adaptation was probably one I liked even more than the book (blasphemy I know!). I watched it before I read the book, but loved it all the same. One of the best series I have watched all year.

Words cannot put into words how insanely good this show was. I havent yet read the book so I can’t compare. But the show, in its 6 episodes, was amazing. AMAZING. Psychological thriller done spectacularly right!

What Books Do You Need to Read by the End of the Year?

Umm…all of them? Hello? How is this even a question. I plan to crack a tiny dent in my TBR. But right now, I have a short few that I plan on reading. Malibu Rising, Vow of Thieves and Jade City.

So, here ends my longest blog post yet. I want to say thank you, if you have read and liked what you read, so far. Means a lot!

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Ebook, 378 pages
Historical Fiction, Adult, LGBTQ, Romance
Trigger Warnings: Violence, Death

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“He is half of my soul, as the poets say.”

There are some books that live up to the hype, others that are let downs, then, there are a few others that, when you read it, it feels like any other book, and then, slowly, as the book nears its end, hits you with a bucket of feels like an airplane hurling straight for a mountain. This book belongs in the third category.

Let me tell you something, Madeline and I may speak the same language, but she and I are on two different ends of the spectrum. When I say that this book made me bawl like a two year old, I am not kidding. I have never suffered so much pain in a very long time. It really is amazing how someone with access to a few alphabets can do to you.

Now, I will admit I haven’t read Iliad yet but I don’t think you need to to enjoy this book. I mean, its the Trojan war! Everyone knows the Trojan War, right? This is basically that, but with emphasis on the characters instead of the actual war.

“We were like gods at the dawning of the world, & our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.”

Told through Patroclus’s eyes, we see one of the profound love stories I have ever read.

“In the darkness, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood like a hundred golden urns pouring out of the sun.”

Make no doubt, this story is about Patroclus as its about Achilles. Miller, in her ingenious way, has combined one of the most overshadowed love story with one of the greatest wars in Greek Mythology. Their love story was so poetically written, so tragically summarized, that mere words cannot do it justice.

What I loved about this book was, the way neither of them ever goes into detail about how much they truly care about each other. At least, not with each other. Patroclus, the biggest simp to have ever lived, talks about how much he loves Achilles as soon he laid eyes on him. However, even without words, even without sentences, their love for each other is described so well that you can cut the tension in the room with a knife.

“Achilles. Who was he if not miraculous, and radiant? Who was he if not destined for fame?”

Needless to say, I loved the characters. Achilles, strong, handsome, so majestically heroic, with a prophecy foretold. He was so determined to outrun his prophecy. The ease in which he carried himself, the subtle changes in his personality as time went on. From the tiny naive boy who trusted everybody to the completely different person that years at war changed him into. It was tragic to watch him grow up, to come in terms with what his life had reduced to. The cost of his youth.

I will never leave him. It will be this, always, for as long as he will let me.”

Patroclus, who was so adorably lovable. He was like a lovesick puppy. Even though, he was a shadow to Achilles, even in his own mind, his loyalty was unparalleled. The only one who kept Achilles at bay, his refuge and freedom. The one who was an anchor to him throughout his life. I think more than the fact that Pat was Achilles’s lover, he was Achilles’s conscious. He fought for things that Achilles could not. He reminded him of how good he was. He kept him anchored.

“And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone.”

The worst thing about this book was rereading it and noticing all the subtle hints scattered everywhere. I wanted to scream. The ending wasn’t something none of us saw coming. We were given clues every step of the way. That’s why the sense of foreboding was so accurate with this book. We should have been prepared but we let it gut us like a fish.

That being said, this book was one of my favorite reads of this year and my second favorite from this writer (after Circe).

“I am made of memories.”

WWW – Wednesday – 14th July 2021

Drudging through the other thousand book blogs out there, I have discovered this fun little meme for book bloggers. Hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words, in it bloggers answer the three WWW’s:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finished reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Its supposed to be done every Wednesday but because I am me and have a terrible repute for being a slow AF reader, I have decided to do this every month. (Someone please remind me to do this next month. Thank you)

Current Read:

Now, I have, maybe, finished three chapters of this book and so, I can’t really vouch whether its worth a hype yet. A prose reminiscent of The Poppy War Trilogy and The Sword of Kaigen (Review to come), I am quite curious to see how the plot progresses. Something tells me that its going to wreck my heart solely because its an epic fantasy, and most epic fantasies tend to take a shard of my broken heart with them. (Examples as referred above).

This book is yet another reminder that I should fix my annoying habit of picking a book up solely because “the cover made it looked interesting” and actually read the goddamn synopsis. It will be like The Wives all over again where I didn’t know the protagonist’s name until I was nearly done with the book.

Just Read (Phew!)

A fast paced read with an engaging plot. Read the full review for it here :The Wives

Up Next:

The second part of one of the best books I have read in a very long time. The first part was amazing on so many levels and the ending made me want to read the second part without skipping a beat!

Oh, did I mention its enemies to lovers? And has a plot to die for? And that lived up to any and all hype its getting? Anyway, RTC after the second book.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Ebook, 304 pages
Fiction, Fantasy, Contemporary, Magical Realism, Adult
Ratings: 4/5
TW: Suicide Attempt

“That was how she had felt most of her life.
Caught in the middle. Struggling, flailing, just trying to survive while not knowing which way to go. Which path to commit to without regret.”

I remember back in high school when we were taught (forced to read) The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. The line that resonated with me to this day was “Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.” The poet, it always seemed to me, was consoling himself that he would return one day and then, take the other road despite knowing deep down that day might never come.

Regret. “Maybe just maybe if I had done something differently I wouldn’t have ended up where I am now.” A word that holds the weight of the worlds. Everyone has them, everyone thinks about them and everyone deals with them.

But it is not lives we regret not living that are the real problem. It is the regret itself. It’s the regret that makes us shrivel and wither and feel like our own and other people’s worst enemy.

It is no secret that Matt Haig, the author of this book, has battled long and hard with various mental issues and maybe that’s why he is so apt at creating characters that are so easy to resonate with.

Nora Seed has found herself in the most shittiest version of her life. Everything that could have gone horribly wrong, has. First, her mom passed away. Then, she lost her job at the saddest music shop possible. Then, the cherry on top of her already sad and mopey day, her cat died. And perhaps what’s worse, her sorta crush, brought her dead cat to her (I mean, talk about a turn off). And then, Nora found herself doing a run down of things that went wrong in her life- She quit swimming, she quit the band that her brother and her were part of , she left her fiance two days before their wedding, she didnt go to Australia with her best friend and they barely talk anymore, she got a degree in philosophy instead of going to study glaciers in the Arctic circle and so on and so forth. But you get the gist of it.

“It is easy to mourn the lives we aren’t living. Easy to wish we’d developed other other talents, said yes to different offers. Easy to wish we’d worked harder, loved better, handled our finances more astutely, been more popular, stayed in the band, gone to Australia, said yes to the coffee or done more bloody yoga.”

And so, Nora finds herself in The Midnight Library. A place that is filled with books, each representing a life she could have made had she made a few different choices. And so, begins her second life, and her third and her forth and on and on and on. She tried one she got married to the guy of her dreams, went to Australia with her best friend, said yes to a coffee date, became a rockstar etc etc. Her possibilities, as it seemed, were just as big and wide as her regrets.

“Never underestimate the big importance of small things.”

Now, I have thought and thought how best to describe the feeling of this book. Imagine watching a Hallmark movie, or a typical romcom from the 90s, lets say The Runaway Bride (picked because its also a disguised self help movie) , now everyone, including the writers know, that the ending (Read as: “the lesson learned”) is quite obvious. Yet, we continue to watch the movie. And its the same with the book. We know where this is headed and yet, we continue reading.

“You’re overthinking it.’

‘I have anxiety. I have no other type of thinking available.”

My one problem with the book is that Nora is a wet blanket. She is the dementor of her life. She manages to overthink and devoid any and all situations out of an ounce of happiness. And yes, I know, reading about a character who was down in the depths that taking her life was the only solution left to her, is quite emotionally challenging. And I, personally, in no way believe that you can cure a mental illness by changing a few perspectives on your life and tapping your heels three times and saying that you want to go home, The Midnight Library, does manage to remain warm and uplifting despite its dark and dreary start.

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

Ebook, 256 pages
Psychological, Thriller, Fiction, Mystery, Adult, Suspense
Rating: 3.5/5

Well, I did it. I picked up a book solely because Booktok told me to, and it has left me utterly confused. Don’t get me wrong, any book that makes me see the rays of the morning sun peak through my blinds, as the sudden realization that I have yet again, stayed up the whole night to read, automatically must be a good book, right? Well….you might just be wrong there.

“Waiting…waiting…that’s what women do. We wait for him to get home, we wait for him to pay attention to us, wait to be treated fairly—for our worth to be seen and acknowledged. Life is just a waiting game for women.”

The book starts of from the point of view of a woman who’s husband has two other wives. She has never met them. That was part of the agreement. No contact with the other wives. She doesn’t even know their names. Instead, she has a loving, caring, hot as a Greek God personified husband that comes home to her once a week. And the rest of the time, she distracts herself working to death.

Was she happy with this arrangement? No.

Will she continue with this arrangement? Yes. Absolutely. 100%. YES!

The secrecy of the situation is almost nightmarish as is the almost frightening adoration she has for this man. She almost fervently repeats in her head that “he loves them all in his way” and “she is his legal wife“. There is also a level of possessiveness, the way she subconsciously compares all her actions to other wives, each action marred by the competitiveness to be the “better wife” to him.

Now, don’t get me wrong, our girl was happy with this situation. I mean, sure she couldn’t go on a vacation with him when she wanted to, because one of his other wives, the youngest one, is now carrying his baby, and she can’t go into a restaurant or a club with him, because they might be spotted by someone she or he knows, or complain about her husband over brunch to a work bestie, because she doesn’t know that she is even married let alone in a polygamist relationship. But she was happy.

“Amazing how once you open a door for something, there’s no going back. All you can do is brace yourself as you get sucked in, deeper and deeper.”

And of course, all this secrecy, loving a man who keeps two-thirds of his life holed away in literally another city, has had his effects. So, she decides to snoop. She decided to befriend, Monday. Her husband’s latest and youngest wife. The one who is carrying his baby. Befriending someone under false pretenses is itself wrong, but when its your husband’s other wife who’s name you were not allowed to know, well, it gets messier. And when you find out that your perfect to a T hubby, has been abusing her, physically and maybe even forcing her to have her kid, well… that would crack any rose tinted glasses.

“In its place is a framed print of a pressed poppy. It depresses me. Pressed flowers are an attempt to hold on to something that was once alive. They’re desperate and lonely”

And so begins, her adventure down her husband’s twisted rabbit hole. She tracks down his first wife “Tuesday”, the workaholic, kid-hating one, who didn’t want to have kids because she had a “career”. (I know! What a monster!) Anyway, after that, there is a lot of drama, a lot of fighting, a lot of “he says she says”, a minor stint in mental hospital- you know, completely normal husband and wife things.

“Does a woman still have to explain herself when she doesn’t want children?”

And somewhere around here, after her discovery, after the mirror shattered, the plot plummets. The plot, still very fast paced and compelling, turned into slightly nonsensical and then, full blown “what the hell is even happening?” that turned the book into a cheap plot twist that could rival any melodramatic soap opera.

And honestly, the only reason I picked up this book (other than the glowing reviews promising me a compelling read- which it delivered on) was the tea. Hot gossip that spoke to my mundane bored soul. I was curious. It started off with knowing how anyone could agree and maintain a poly amorous relationship. Now, anyone who knows me will swear, cross their hearts and hope to die, that I am terrible at sharing. And as per the writer, this is where the idea of this book came from. So, this felt like a perfect fit.

And as much as I loved the emotional roller coaster that this book has put me through, the ending made me regret it, leaving me drained and kinda sad because it didn’t deliver on its promise. And it held a lot of promise.

P.S: It took me a very long time, nearly 3/4th of the book, before I realized that her name is actually Thursday and its not just the day of the week that Seth visits her on. Dumb me.

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

Ebook, 352 pages
Fantasy, Fairytale Retelling, Young Adult, Bad-ass Ladies
Rating: 4/5

First thing you should know about me, is that I am a sucker for a good retelling- Where the beast was actually the villain, where Cinderella was actually a cyborg, where the villains weren’t villains, not really anyway, their stories had just been told differently- reel me in, hook line and sinker. So, naturally when a book casts perhaps one of the most hated fairy tale villains as heroines in their own right, I just had to read it.

“Don’t you see? A pretty girl must please the world. But an ugly girl? She’s free to please herself.”

This book started off strong. A 5 star beginning if I ever saw one. It was dark, eerie fairy tale vibes taken straight out of Grimm’s fairy tales. I mean, it does start off with the stepsisters chopping off parts of their foot to fit into a very tiny and fragile glass slipper. Doesn’t get much grimmer than that, am I right?

And of course, that scene is where Ella and Prince Charming get their own very happy ending. “And they lived happily ever after. The end.” As we were told since we were kids. However, this is the beginning of the tale of the two sisters. Cinderella’s evil, wicked, cunning, cruel stepsisters.

Isabella and Octavia (“Tavi”) are left behind with their greedy overbearing mother, who is losing her grip on sanity at a very alarming speed as each day passes. Isabella is consumed with jealousy at the misfortune dealt to her while her stepsister goes frolicking into a good life of marital bliss. She is angry at the world for deeming her unworthy because she is not pretty. She hates the world that over looks her’s and Tavi’s merits and reduces them to a single word- “ugly”.

“They cut away pieces of me,” she whispered in the darkness. “But I handed them the knife.”

On a whole different world, perhaps one so well hidden from Isabella’s reality, a battle between Chance and the Fates commences and the final chess piece, behest to Isabella, is her own life. The path she can forge for herself vs the one that was forged for her.

“The wolves in the woods have sharp teeth and long claws, but it’s the wolf inside who will tear you apart.”

A nice story about finding who you are while the world and everyone around you believes you are something else entirely. A story that is very intimately familiar yet distant and fresh as new spins are put on on a old fairy tale. A tale as old as time yet just as relevant now as ever.

“Every war is different, yet each battle is the same. The enemy is only a distraction. The thing you are fighting against, always, is yourself.”

“The feeling that you want to own someone body and soul, spirit them away from everyone else, have them all to yourself forever and ever and ever,” Hugo said dreamily. “It’s called love.”
“No, it’s called kidnapping,” said Tavi.”

(Had to add this quote. It was just so damn funny.)

Book Review (Quarantine Special)- Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

Ebook, 327 pages
Fiction, Holiday, Contemporary, LGBTQ
Rating: 3.5/5

One thing you all must be wondering: Mia, was it really wise to pick up a book about quarantine during quarantine?

Possibly not. But the prose was so tempting, I just couldn’t resist.

So, yes, I did pick up this book because of the self-quarantine aspect. Especially, since I and many others in the world are in lock down and quarantining ourselves with our loved ones. And I, for one, can tell you in all honesty, it has not been a blast. Quite the contrary actually.

Seven days of Us reads like a melodramatic sitcom. We are introduced to the Birch family. An affluent upper middle class family, who has decided to self-quarantine themselves for seven days (from Christmas to New Year’s) in their family mansion, upon the return of their eldest daughter, Olivia Birch, from treating a deadly disease called Haag. (Because what could possibly go wrong with shutting themselves in with a person who is completely exhausted from treating sick and dying people in a third world country?)

Told from multiple POV’s, this story gives a glimpse into the intriguing dynamics of the Birch family. From Olivia to Phoebe, from Emma to Andrew and last of all, to the new comer, Jesse, we see that what makes any relationship work is more than just smiles and fairy dust, its communication and hard work.

Being engaging and warm whilst remaining utterly realistic, is a hard feat to achieve, but this book manages to shake its soap opera-like roots to tell a very captivating, witty and thought provoking story.

The Birch’s are introduced pretty early in the book and the dysfunctional relationship with their eldest daughter is pretty evident early on. Which the matriarch has taken it upon herself to see that its fixed over the next seven days. (Mothers, they do try, don’t they?)

Secrets, secrets and more secrets are unveiled as the quarantine begins as each of the Birch’s finds themselves a recipient of (some expected and very unexpected) news:

The youngest daughter, Phoebe, just found herself to engaged to the man of her dreams (or is he?).

The patriarch of the family, a former war correspondent turned food critic (think Ego from Ratatouille and you have him down to a T), just received word from an old flame. (And he does not like it one bit.)

On the other hand, the cheery, self-sufficient matriarch has news of her own. While the news is quite devastating and equally heart breaking, she will be damned if she let spoil her perfect vacation.

Olivia, on the other hand, cannot wait for this week to be over (AMEN TO THAT). She had never connected to her family and cannot think of a reason to now. And the only thing worse than being in quarantine with her exorbitant family, might be Haag itself. 

With secrets everywhere, the Birch enter their week long quarantine (Pfft. Amateurs). Will they make it out alive? Or at least with their feelings intact? Will all the skeletons remain in the closet or will they all come tumbling out in an avalanche? To find out and more, stay tuned for next week’s episode of…Oh wait…

With a few surprises along the way, the book wraps up the same way it began, nicely, like a well wrapped Christmas gift. And anyway, who doesn’t love the theatrics of dysfunctional family? Right?

Book Review- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins

Ebook, 391 pages
Historical Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Fiction, LGBTQ
Rating: 5/5

I am torn about this review. On one hand, I want to write it spoiler free and let you, the readers, find out why this is an absolute jewel of a book and what a huge mistake it would be not to read it. On the other hand, I want to prepare an all comprehensive alphabetized list of all the reasons as to why this book is a masterpiece. But the latter involves a lot of spoilers, and if there is one thing you should know about me, it is that, I don’t do spoilers. Not. One. (and I am so indecisive that’s its taken me five months to choose a book for me to review. But this is a whole different story)

How would I describe this book in one word? Sultry.

Because that’s Evelyn Hugo. Sultry, desirable, oozing sex appeal. A dominating presence onscreen and off. A string of questionable scandals following her every move. and rumor has it, she has men eating out of the palm of her hand.

Or is that what the tabloids and the gossip mags wants you to think?

“I’m cynical and I’m bossy, and most people would consider me vaguely immoral.”

Once an undeniable seductress with an enchanting stage presence, who was considered an epitome of beauty, Evelyn, now at the ripe old age of 79, has decided to divulge about a subject she has long kept private: her seven husbands. And she promises it would be as scandalous and salacious as the readers expect.

And who is the lucky reporter who gets to dive into the personal life of one of the most delicious scandal makers in Hollywood? A no name reporter named Monique. (And I will let you in on a secret, no one is more surprised than Monique herself.)

This book is a ride. There is no other way to describe the Topsy-turvy world that Evelyn opens up for us. Evelyn is a Hollywood actress in the 80’s and that in itself is an invite for racism, sexism, sheer misogyny and having to conform to almost ridiculous social norms that will make you clench your fist and grit your teeth and contemplating roundhouse kicking every stupid character in the family jewels.

Anyway, back to Evelyn and Monique, our two leading ladies. Monique soon finds out that when Evelyn meant all the details, she meant them all. Including her long standing frenemy rivalry with the her once costar, Celia.

Is Evelyn Hugo going to tell me just enough to keep me on the edge of my seat but never enough to truly reveal anything?

Evelyn is a good storyteller. And as it turns out, her habit of giving the audience just enough to leave them wanting more, translates perfectly onto the page as it does in her movies. Her ‘greatest love’ is a secret she holds close to her heart and as we read through her story, husband after husband, our minds circle back to the inevitable question, “is this the lucky one?”.

The more Evelyn revealed about her life, the more I, as a reader, connected to her. I understood her when she talked about how people looked at her differently at the age of 15, when her body changed, how she realized how hard it is to break into a man’s world, how she played the game to get ahead, married for lust, love, desperation and in the end, regretted it all. How she bore the brunt to the media’s criticism as well as the film industry’s sexism. And in some ways, she used both to her advantage.

Basically, Evelyn explores what it means to really make it and what is the ultimate price one pays for it.   

“People think that intimacy is about sex. But intimacy is about truth. When you realize you can tell someone your truth, when you can show yourself to them, when you stand in front of them bare and their response is ‘you’re safe with me’- that’s intimacy.”

She manipulated and lied and did anything to get to the top. She crossed boundaries and tore down stereotypes and pushed the limits in a world where being a person of color and a female were one of the worst things to be. She was not cut from the same cloth as the other girls her industry. She was an entirely new cloth and she was not afraid to show it.  

“Don’t ignore half of me so you can fit me into a box.”

And even though she did despicable things, as a reader, I was strangely drawn to her. I understood her decisions, I understood her motive, her ambition and most of her, her craving to be loved, to be seen as more than a vapid, attention loving whore than the media inevitably portrayed her as.

And the interview she gave Monique was raw, honest and at times, unapologetically blunt. She took the readers to a dark, gritty, and highly intoxicating place, beyond the shimmering lights and the fame of the big screen. She took them through the hidden nooks and crannies of one of the most sought out places in the world. Hollywood.

And she didn’t leave any secrets behind.