Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson

Ebook, 512 pages
Fantasy, Young Adult, Fiction, Fantasy, Dystopian
Trigger Warnings: Violence, Blood

Rating: 5 out of 5.

 Make a wish, Kazi, one for tomorrow, for the next day, and the next. One will always come true.

I don’t know why the universe has decided to bless my book choices in the latter half of 2021, but I am not complaining. So far, all my books have been a 5 star read. Again, not complaining and hopefully, my luck won’t run out any time soon. (Though, they could be shorter. So, if you have any books that are 5 stars but under 400 pages- put it in the comments, please.)

Now, technically, this book is part of another trilogy called The Remnant Chronicles, the existence of which I found out after I read the first book. They should really put up some sort of disclaimer for that. (And I should start reading the blurbs as well. But going in blind is half the fun.) So, anyway, as far as I can tell, reading TRC is not required and I enjoyed the book just fine without knowing the common characters but if you are one of those people who like to go “Heyyyyy!” whenever you see a familiar character, go right ahead. Somewhat like the Six of Crows duology and the Grisha Trilogy, one world separate stories. (Fun fact: I read SoC before any of the other books there too.)

“Tell me a riddle, Kazi.”

This book, in my opinion, is a solid 5 stars for a lot of reasons. The plot was perfect, the world building was out of this world, the characters I would take a bullet for and the writing, if I could bottle the way the writer has written this, I would cause it would sell like hotcakes.

So, color me surprised, when I learned that, despite this being one of the best enemies to lovers‘ books I have ever read, this book is so underrated that it never ever shows up on any lists?! Like people, YOU ARE SLEEPING ON THIS AMAZING GORGEOUS BOOK!

“It’s awkward, isn’t it?” he said.

“What’s that?” I replied, my voice far too breathy.

“These moments when we’re not hating each other.”

Now, remember those characters that I would take a bullet for? Well, time to meet them. Kazi, a former legendary thief who is now under employment of the Queen of Venda as her personal army ‘Rahtan'(And yes, maybe in the start I loved her a little too much because of another lovable thief whose name is a little too alike to hers) goes to investigate the transgressions against her Kingdom, in Hell’s mouth, a settlement ruled by the Ballenger Family, headed by Jase, their Patrei.

“Every exchange of words between Jase and me seemed like a dance, a step forward, a step back, circling, both of us leading, anticipating, wondering what the next move would be. He didn’t trust me any more than I trusted him.”

I loved their romance. At times it was frustrating but I loved that even as they were falling in love, they never forgot their agendas. Kazi didn’t stop investigating the Ballengers nor did Jase divulge everything just because he loved her. And I loved that. They didn’t let their guard down. Often, I see how in books, the characters fall in love and then, spill their deepest darkest secrets in a matter of seconds which inevitably leads them to be betrayed.

“blink last”

Other than Kazi, we see the rest of the Rahtans aka bad ass females who didn’t cower behind anyone or anything. I loved how apart from being loyal soldiers they were given their own stories. In a short span, I loved each of them and their sibling like relationship with each other.

“You are Rahtan, Kazi. You have a promise to keep, and you will betray him eventually.”

I loved the Ballengers with ferocity. I loved their loyalty to one another. The unspoken bond, the trust in Jase as Patrei despite him not being the oldest or the strongest. Just because he was the chosen one, his words were accepted and followed.

Another thing I loved about this book was the subtle hint to dystopia. The hints were there, about the first Ballengers, the way they fought against a mysterious group called Scavengers. Told from a group of kids too young to remember what life was like before, the writer merges our world with theirs in a wonderful collusion that only becomes evident if you know the current world.

Choose your words carefully, even the words you think, because they become seeds, and seeds become history.

Now, the best way to describe Mary’s writing is like drinking water. It was 500 pages that I inhaled in a matter of days. It helped that the chapters were tiny, told from two POV’s. And I always say that if done properly, rotating POVs can be an amazing hook for a reader. And this was as proper as it gets. Riveting from beginning to end, this book remains one of the most addicting books I have read this year.

So, if it wasn’t clear so far, I loved this book. And I would recommend it to any dystopian, fantasy, young adult, new adult, ‘enemies to lovers‘ reader because you will not be disappointed.

November 9 by Colleen Hoover

Ebook, 307 pages
Romance, Contemporary, New Adult
Trigger Warning: Abuse, Fire Accident

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Now, before we start, a warning, this is less of a book review and more of a rant post. So, if you are faint of heart or loved this book (I would like to say “no judgement” but honestly…?), I suggest you don’t read further. It will not be pretty.

Now, am I a salty person? The Dead Sea would look at me and say, “Damn, that’s salty“. Do I hate wasting time on useless, pointless plots? Yes. And that, my child, is how this rant review was born.

Hear me when I say the rage I felt when I finished this book was unimaginable. There are some books that I keep reading despite blaring red flags (much like most of Ben and Fallon’s relationship), because I hate leaving books in between. I am a hopeful soul and hold firm that maybe, it could get better towards the end. Short answer: it did not. Long answer: Keep reading.

Now, the plot of the story is that Ben and Fallon meet in a diner on November 9th. Fallon is about to fly across the country to NYC the very next day. So, they make a pact to meet every year. This plot, on paper, was right up my alley. A little romance akin to One Day, told over years? A story of passion, romance, friendship and finally realizing that they were meant to be? Sign me up!

Turns out, it was a souffle that just didn’t rise. This story was better when I read the synopsis than when I finished the book. An equivalent to when the trailer was better than the movie. But worse. So much worse.

I have learned from this book that characters can make or break a book. And well, meet Ben, the man who broke this book single-handedly. Ben is what you would called a pseudo perfect boyfriend. He has all the qualities of a perfect boyfriend and that would work fine, if he wasn’t such a infuriating piece of shit (Pardon, my French). The man practically forces his way into Fallon’s conversation with her father aka “rescues her”, sits there undressing her with his mind (And no, I am in no way mistaken about this because there is a huge paragraph dedicated to him wondering about what colour her underwear is- three seconds after they meet) and not to mention how controlling he is. Exhibit A:

I shove the dress back at him. “I don’t want to wear that, I want to wear this.”

“No,” he says. “I’m paying for dinner, so I get to choose what to stare at while we eat.”

If a guy says this to me, he will be limping how after I knee him in the family jewels. But poor Fallon, in her ‘damsel in distress’ with zero confidence and absolutely no self esteem falls for his “I shall wave my magical wand and deliver a few big speeches about how I want to do you and you shall find yourself a confident, sexy woman” ploy. Honestly, there was a point where he asks her, all romantic, about if she knew what he was thinking about when he first saw her, and I admit, the die hard, sappy romantic in me, for a second, did indeed believe he was going to tell her in some touching fashion about how gorgeous he found her and beauty was really about what was on the inside and not how many scars you have on the outside, but no, it was about how enamored by her ass and wondering if she was wearing underwear. Romance is truly dead.

There were so many such exhibits. And omg, if this is what the New Adults of the world are being exposed to, nowadays, I worry for the future generations. Just to clear things up, no, virginity is not a “gift” to the guy and you do not “lose a bit of yourself” and making it seem that way, just made me want to vomit all over this book. And also, if a man ever puts his hand over your mouth, to prevent you from speaking, bite him.

Moving on the Fallon, aka the cause for my rising blood pressure- Part 2. In short, I found her extremely annoying and totally melodramatic. But she was tolerable even though she found the fact that her “boyfriend” keeps objectifying her as romantic and not disturbing. I found it sad how complying she was, even when she was uncomfortable. This book really took objectifying women to a whole new level. Not to start on the gas lighting.

“It took four years for me to fall in love with him. It only took four pages to stop.”

So, as you can imagine by the time, the actual plot twist came around, I was done with this book. And honestly, the plot twist didn’t improve things. It just cemented my already deteriorating views about this book. I was right to hate it. I was right to trust my instincts. And this book was truly terrible.

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.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Ebook, 378 pages
Historical Fictions, Romance, Fantasy, New Adult, LGBTQ
Trigger Warning: ViolenceBlood, Gore

Rating: 5 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.”

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.

Book Review- The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Ebook, 368 pages
Poetry, Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

I don’t read poetry. I have never felt the need to read poetry. And my expertise in poetry ends with my high school textbook when we learned William Wordsworth and Robert Frost. And although I enjoyed dissecting their works and finding meanings to their verses, I have never ventured into this genre. So, it was unusual for me to even pick up this book.

I had seen it flitting about. I had seen a lot of people rate it. But I went into it with no blank slate determined to not judge it. So, hear me when I say, that this book attacked me. It had the audacity to come into my house on a Saturday morning and attack me!

Freedom seems like such a big word. Something too big; maybe like a skyscraper I’ve glimpsed from the foot of the building but never been invited to climb.

To say I loved this book seems insufficient. To say it made me think seems glib. To say it made me feel as though everything I’ve ever felt and kept bottled up in me was suddenly made available to the world as though a hurricane was crashing through me seems adequate. This book was heart wrenching and beautiful.

I understood Xiomara’s pain. Her identity being already established for her by a society that judged her by her body rather than her mind. I understood her rage as people assumed this and that of her not taking into consideration that she has a voice and that she could speak for herself. I understood what it means to realize that the only people in this world who was supposed to stand by your side and be on your side abandons you and you have to fend for yourself. How it feels to want to scream and shout and rage against the world screaming “I have a voice. Please listen“.

Another thing that this book didn’t shy away from was religion. How this played a fundamental part in her relationship with her mother. And though, I grew up in a household similar to hers and have had questions, just like her, I cannot say I agree with the author when she solved this problem too neatly. It was clear cut and I don’t think in real life, it would have ended so beautifully as it did in the book. But then, again, hope is hope.