Reviews

Review: Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan

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SYNOPSIS:

A reserved Bangladeshi teenager has twenty-eight days to make the biggest decision of her life after agreeing to fake date her school’s resident bad boy.
How do you make one month last a lifetime?


Karina Ahmed has a plan. Keep her head down, get through high school without a fuss, and follow her parents’ rules—even if it means sacrificing her dreams. When her parents go abroad to Bangladesh for four weeks, Karina expects some peace and quiet. Instead, one simple lie unravels everything.

Karina is my girlfriend.

Tutoring the school’s resident bad boy was already crossing a line. Pretending to date him? Out of the question. But Ace Clyde does everything right—he brings her coffee in the mornings, impresses her friends without trying, and even promises to buy her a dozen books (a week) if she goes along with his fake-dating facade. Though Karina agrees, she can’t help but start counting down the days until her parents come back.

T-minus twenty-eight days until everything returns to normal—but what if Karina no longer wants it to? 


Counting Down with You was such a warm joy to read, and it left me with something luminous bubbling bright within my chest. It’s a charming and aching story with a quietly furious heart, a story that would have given me a mirror as a teenager, and now at twenty-two, pried something open in me that had been shut for a very long time.

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Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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SYNOPSIS:

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemí’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.


Mexican Gothic is a sublime work of post-colonial gothic, not at all comfortable or comforting, but beautifully rendered all the same. It’s a story that unsettled me so effectively I found myself, on more than one occasion, helplessly desperate to claw my way out of my reading experience, to put a merciful distance between me and the words and the bleak and stifling horror that lies within. And at the same time, I couldn’t. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. Because, like any terrible enchantment, Mexican Gothic is a book that compels.

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Reviews

Review: Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft

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SYNOPSIS:

He saw the darkness in her magic. She saw the magic in his darkness.

Wren Southerland’s reckless use of magic has cost her everything: she’s been dismissed from the Queen’s Guard and separated from her best friend—the girl she loves. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate, Colwick Hall, to cure his servant from a mysterious illness, she seizes her chance to redeem herself.

The mansion is crumbling, icy winds haunt the caved-in halls, and her eccentric host forbids her from leaving her room after dark. Worse, Wren’s patient isn’t a servant at all but Hal Cavendish, the infamous Reaper of Vesria and her kingdom’s sworn enemy. Hal also came to Colwick Hall for redemption, but the secrets in the estate may lead to both of their deaths.

With sinister forces at work, Wren and Hal realize they’ll have to join together if they have any hope of saving their kingdoms. But as Wren circles closer to the nefarious truth behind Hal’s illness, they realize they have no escape from the monsters within the mansion. All they have is each other, and a startling desire that could be their downfall.

Allison Saft’s Down Comes the Night is a snow-drenched romantic fantasy that keeps you racing through the pages long into the night.

Love makes monsters of us all.


                 The premise of Down Comes the Night struck me with a deep allure: two enemies, standing on opposite sides of an endless war, find themselves miserably trapped, like a pair of pinned moths, with unknowable terrors inside an estate lurking deep in the dark fog-wreathed mountains, and like any trapped thing, they must scrape up answers and fight to the bitter end, together. 

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Review: Star Eater by Kerstin Hall

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SYNOPSIS:

All martyrdoms are difficult.

Elfreda Raughn will avoid pregnancy if it kills her, and one way or another, it will kill her. Though she’s able to stomach her gruesome day-to-day duties, the reality of preserving the Sisterhood of Aytrium’s magical bloodline horrifies her. She wants out, whatever the cost.

So when a shadowy cabal approaches Elfreda with an offer of escape, she leaps at the opportunity. As their spy, she gains access to the highest reaches of the Sisterhood, and enters a glittering world of opulent parties, subtle deceptions, and unexpected bloodshed.


                  Star Eater’s premise stalled me in my tracks, a pull of curiosity dragging me along like a child that has hold of my sleeve. It sounded, simultaneously, like nothing I’ve ever read and everything I never knew I needed: a story about an order of bureaucratic priestesses who practice cannibalistic magic in service of sisterhood. Also…zombies (with a deliciously hideous twist!). I was viciously intrigued.

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Review: Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard

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SYNOPSIS:

Fire burns bright and has a long memory….

Quiet, thoughtful princess Thanh was sent away as a hostage to the powerful faraway country of Ephteria as a child. Now she’s returned to her mother’s imperial court, haunted not only by memories of her first romance, but by worrying magical echoes of a fire that devastated Ephteria’s royal palace.

Thanh’s new role as a diplomat places her once again in the path of her first love, the powerful and magnetic Eldris of Ephteria, who knows exactly what she wants: romance from Thanh and much more from Thanh’s home. Eldris won’t take no for an answer, on either front. But the fire that burned down one palace is tempting Thanh with the possibility of making her own dangerous decisions.

Can Thanh find the freedom to shape her country’s fate—and her own? 


ATTENTION, SAPPHICS!

Fireheart Tiger is a sleek and sexy, fierce and fragile spill of a story that unfolds a roving feast of feelings, both beautiful and renewing. Aliette de Bodard deftly mingles subtly cutting court politics with tangled lesbian relationships, and renders both with breathless heat, intense intrigue and a deep, dreadful pang of yearning.

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Terrors, wonders, and ruinous delight: The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

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SYNOPSIS:

Immigrant. Socialite. Magician.

Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society―she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her.

But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how.


When I think back on the experience of reading The Chosen and the Beautiful I think of freshly pressed silk slipping over skin and fingers sliding through hair and delicate cords of bright pearls shimmering on bare throats like sunrise on water. And a glimmer of something else too, something sharp beneath the smooth surface: shards from a mirror that tipped off a shelf and shattered and rivulets of molten blood and faint scratches from a single nail painted slick black. A story of terrors and wonders and ruinous delight.

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Review: Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters by Aimee Ogden

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SYNOPSIS:

Gene-edited human clans have scattered throughout the galaxy, adapting themselves to environments as severe as the desert and the sea. Atuale, the daughter of a Sea-Clan lord, sparked a war by choosing her land-dwelling love and rejecting her place among her people. Now her husband and his clan are dying of an incurable plague, and Atuale’s sole hope for finding a cure is to travel off-planet. The one person she can turn to for help is the black-market mercenary known as the World Witch—and Atuale’s former lover. Time, politics, bureaucracy, and her own conflicted desires stand between Atuale and the hope for her adopted clan.


“Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters” was a quiet, queer, and unexpected little thing that affected me like the gentle stroke of a callused palm, and I wanted to lean into it and let it stroke me forever. I consumed this novella in one setting, letting the author’s voice lull me into a half-dream, muffling the world around me into silence, and melting all my troubles like darkness at sunrise. I really hope the author writes more in this world, because I already yearn to return back to it.

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Review: Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

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Ancillary Justice meets Red, White & Royal Blue in Everina Maxwell’s exciting debut.

While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control.

But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.


There is truly nothing the restive embrace of a good story cannot fix.

I had the opportunity to read an early copy of Winter’s Orbit a few weeks ago, while caught in the dreary throes of finals and deadlines, and the story was like a rope thrown into a churning sea, mooring me to some semblance of sanity. Those moments when I would step outside myself, and step inside the story were the only moments my mind shut off its rigor, and everything in me settled like silt. I yearned for the escape I knew the story would bring, and for the space of a few hundred pages, I felt weightless, like all the trouble in the world had lifted from my shoulders.

Ironically, trouble finds our characters from the outset of the novel, and quickly begins to pile up like mountains on their shoulders.

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Review: 5 Reasons to Read Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

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SYNOPSIS:

A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created an epic adventure exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade.


RATING: ☆★☆★☆

             Alright. Here are 5 reasons why you should read “Black Sun”. Buckle up.

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Review: The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht

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SYNOPSIS:

The city of Elendhaven sulks on the edge of the ocean. Wracked by plague, abandoned by the South, stripped of industry and left to die. But not everything dies so easily. A thing without a name stalks the city, a thing shaped like a man, with a dark heart and long pale fingers yearning to wrap around throats. A monster who cannot die. His frail master sends him out on errands, twisting him with magic, crafting a plan too cruel to name, while the monster’s heart grows fonder and colder and more cunning.

These monsters of Elendhaven will have their revenge on everyone who wronged the city, even if they have to burn the world to do it. 


              The Monster of Elendhaven is a story about monsters. And all monsters must have names because “things with names survived.”

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