Book Reviews

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

“One more hour until I prove to Visidia that I’m meant to be their heir… Two more hours until I’m engaged to a man I’ll never love… Three more hours until I give the command to ready a ship to set sail tomorrow, and demand to know every secret about this kingdom that’s ever been kept from me.”

In what I can only describe as a magical turn of fate, I happen to work with one of Adalyn Grace’s brothers. Upon learning of my obsession passion for books, he informed me that his sister was the author of All the Stars and Teeth. Within the past year I have been developing an appreciation for young adult/fantasy books so I decided to add it to my list.

I ended up forsaking everything else I was reading to finish this one first.

All the Stars and Teeth is a high fantasy novel that explores the very real boundaries of curiosity and corruption, and the choices we make when caught between power and the desire to do what’s right.

(What is high fantasy, you ask? Click here for Goodreads’ description.)

I was captivated by the mystical Kingdom of Visidia and at least a little jealous of the adventure that Amora, Princess of Visidia, embarks upon as she sets sail to save herself and her kingdom – and not just because she finds herself in the company of the handsome rogue Bastian! Who hasn’t daydreamed about going on a heroic and life-changing quest?

Amora’s character really resonated with me. She has so many qualities I wish I could see in myself: brave and adventurous with a self-confidence I fail to muster on a regular basis. She is unafraid to go after what she wants most.

In this interview, Grace describes Amora’s character as “morally grey”. I liked this about Amora; it made her realistic and relatable. No heroine should be pristine; I would argue that our “flaws” are often what make us the most human.

The story itself was fresh yet comforting because it reminded me of things that I already liked. While reading, I got vibes of Children of Blood and Bone, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Hunger Games. But don’t be misled – this story stands alone, too.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the characters continue to develop in the next installment, All the Tides of Fate, set to release in February of 2021.

Have you read All the Stars and Teeth? Let me know in the comments!

Learn more about Adalyn Grace at her website and on her Instagram.

Happy reading, friends! ❤

Book Reviews

The Maiden of the Storm – My First Adult Romance Review

The Maiden of the StormThe Maiden of the Storm by Michelle Deerwester-Dalrymple
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Maiden of the Storm by Michelle Deerwester-Dalrymple is a fast read full of depth, developed characters, and researched content. Historical fiction is my favorite genre and this story really delivers with the historical details, such as clothing, vocabulary, and scenery. As someone who isn’t normally a romance reader, I can say this story has me hooked on Michelle Deerwester-Dalrymple. She has taken tremendous care to put the best in her books and her words stirred something within me. The tale of Riana, daughter of the village chieftain, and Horatio, captive Roman solder, combines passion, pleasure, and pride – and I will be reading it again!

*I received a free copy of the ARC in exchange for an honest review.*

View all my reviews

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Last Story of Mina Lee

“What would the world look like if she made it her own, even temporarily, for a moment, fleeting, so that she could experience again the throb, the hunger of being alive, eyes wide, teeth showing?”

The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim is a gripping tale. It’s addictive, edgy, and so full of truth.

And I really mean addictive! I could not resist picking this up while I was still in the middle of another book. But I had to finish it asap. No regrets!

The story goes back-and-forth between Margot and Mina, two women trying to make their way on the West Coast.

Margot, set in the present, discovers her mother’s body, still and unmistakably dead. Despite her initial shock, suspicion immediately sets in. As Margot goes on a quest to discover the truth about her mother’s untimely demise, she ends up discovering more about her mother – and herself – than she thought possible.

The story of Mina, Margot’s mother, is set in the beginning of her new life in the United States, years that lead up to and include Margot’s birth. She finds, with mixed feelings, camaraderie in coworkers and a few new friends. Through her new relationships and finding her way in a new place, Mina must navigate the murky waters that come with starting over while coping with the pains of the past.

As Margot traverses the mysteries surrounding her mother’s death, she must also grapple with the mysteries of her own mind. How much of her life has been shaped by who she thought her mother was? Who could Margot be if she allowed herself to just be?

This novel explores immigration, power, status, the American dream, loss, heartbreak, and what it means to belong. The characters learn lessons on owning their lives for who they are and what they have done – and it some cases, what they have not done.

This is a mystery without reading like a mystery. The characters are diverse and well-developed. I like that the storyline alternates between Margot and Mina – vastly different but similar in ways that run deeper than the surface.

Have you read The Last Story of Mina Lee? Leave me a comment and let me know what you thought or if it’s on your tbr!

Happy reading, friends! 🙂

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Space Between Worlds

Cara is a traverser – jumping between worlds by both the mercy of Goddess Nyame and the intentional hands of science. She spends every day with a woman she loves from afar while trying to reconcile the present with the past… That is, until a powerful announcement is made and Cara begins to believe that while she can’t alter destiny, she can still exercise her free will to choose between what’s right right now and what’s right for all.

When I hear “sci-fi” my brain automatically goes to things like The Twilight Zone or intergalactic travel (I grew up in a Star Trek household). The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson is sci-fi that feels…. accessible. While not caught up in the technical aspects I usually lose interest in, there’s just enough for it to set the scene without rubbing it in your face. The emotions of the characters also create the drama that keeps me (and hopefully you!) coming. back. for. more.

The Space Between Worlds is also visually enticing. The juxtaposition of the technologically-advanced Wiley City and the left-behind-in-the-dust (literally) Rurals and Ashtown are something I would love to see on the big screen.

The Wiley City skyscrapers complete with gardens and courtyards are probably not far off from what our future holds. A quick Google image search of skyscraper vertical gardening gives you an idea.

It has the futuristic, post-apocalyptic thing going on which I think will never go out of style as long as we are pre-apocalyptic. Think The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Divergent, etc. Why are we so drawn to these books? A post-apocalyptic world seems so – forgive me – out of this world but is so full of heroes it’s hard not to be drawn to it.

Other than having a good plot and excellent character development, The Space Between Worlds is DIVERSE. The plot does not center around a cisgender, white protagonist with a few diverse characters sprinkled in to the edges for good measure. The story is about humanity, all of it, pulling back its layers and exposing its deep truths.

With appropriately-timed revelations and the continuous theme of the relationship between science and religion, there is plenty in The Space Between Worlds to spark conversation. It would be a great book club selection.

Have you read The Space Between Worlds? Would you want to world-travel? I would honestly much rather be the world-traveler than the person who is visited by a traveler because I would be INSANELY jealous!

Happy reading, friends!

Beliefs and opinions reflected in this post are mine alone and do not reflect the beliefs and opinions of the author and/or publisher.

Book Reviews

Book Review: THICK and Other Essays

THICK and Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom, PhD, was one of my August Book of the Month Club selections. It is eye-opening, descriptive, and academic (the 20 pages of notes and references rocked my world).

THICK is not a history book. While McMillan Cottom draws on personal experiences, it is not specifically autobiographical enough to be a classic memoir. It is academic without reading like a textbook. It does combine all of these elements. McMillan Cottom says in the text that it’s a loose version of “opinion writing”.

THICK is not a long read, but it is hefty. It’s not a book that feels right to devour in one afternoon because a) some of the sentences I had to read five times, out loud, slowly, and reword to make my brain comprehend them and b) this is Important Stuff.

What is Important Stuff? Historically, those who held power, money, and title decided what other people should think was important. For a long time, certain groups’ opinions on what was and was not important did not matter – especially if they couldn’t read, couldn’t write, and couldn’t speak English, and therefore could not vote.

“If my work is about anything it is about making plain precisely how prestige, money, and power structure our so-called democratic institutions so that most of us will always fail.”

Tressie Mcmillan cottom – “Girl 6” in THICK AND OTHER ESSAYS

Black women and Black peoples should not be delegated to the role of a statistic. Yet they are. And people still don’t believe them, and they choose to not believe or rely on statistics that don’t mesh with a pre-determined opinion.

Important Stuff includes anti-racism not only by educating ourselves and admitting to ourselves, if not others, that we are wrong – even if we don’t profit from systemic traits, we at least are not worse off because of it – but by also acting upon it. I look at my life and think of how so many people say “I don’t see color” and I remember when that’s something i would thought was progressive. But it only hides the issue. It doesn’t change reality.

Reading THICK and Other Essays can be part of the catalyst for us all to learn more while we do more.

To learn more about Tressie McMillan Cottom, PhD, and her other works, visit her website.

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Death of Vivek Oji

How would you live if you carried a secret that someone would hurt you for? More, how would you die?

What would you do if you lost your only child? How would you weep? Resigned and silent… Loud and unforgiving…

In The Death of Vivek Oji, author Akwaeke Emezi shares sections of Vivek’s life and the lives of those close to him leading up to Vivek’s death and beyond.

Vivek Oji’s death is not a secret. Its occurrence is not the climax of the story.

The title is purposefully vague. While the injuries are presented, we do not know the details. Vivek’s mother, Kavita, goes in search of the truth.

She learns more than she bargained for.

We think, “Not in my town.” “Not where I live.” “That doesn’t happen here.”

And we are wrong.

The unwarranted hatred projected onto gendervariant and LQBTQ+ people throughout the world is real. And it does become violent.

When you read The Death of Vivek Oji, if you take nothing else away, think of what actions you can take to make the world a safer place for all.

What can you do to ensure the richness and fullness of life deserved by every one of us?

Other than that it makes you think, I liked that while the chapters flit between characters, it’s not confusing. Exploration of relationships – platonic, romantic, sexual, and familial – is a vital component of this story.

The character development is good and the plot is enticing. Sometimes the timeline may throw you off but take your time and connect with the characters.

And take time to think about the things in this story that give you pause or make you uncomfortable. Work through and past it.

Let me know what you think of this one, friends! Learn more abut Akwaeke Emezi and their other works and accomplishments here.

Book Reviews

Break Out Your Dustiest Earl Grey: A Review of Mexican Gothic

GREETINGS: Already read Mexican Gothic? Check out Oak + River Books’ first Nature in the Novel post, exploring ecocriticism within Mexican Gothic.

Noemí Taboada travels to a mansion in the misty woods to keep tabs on her questionably ill and confused cousin who was recently married to the son of an old-wealth family. After some frightening encounters, she soon learns that family secrets flow deeper than the foundation of the house. Will Noemí uncover the truth in time save her cousin, or will she even be able to save herself? 

Mexican Gothic is haunting.

Haunting in a way that might keep you awake all night but also because you WILL read all night long just to find out what happens next.

This historical fiction/horror novel takes place in 1950s Mexico – a specific and refreshing setting that sets Moreno-Garcia apart from the mainstream, and etching a niche that I would be happy to see additional well-researched writers enter.

In a way I hope my fellow book enthusiasts understand, I truly appreciated the amount of detail and the vocabulary used (I had to look up the definition of a couple words: antimacassar and susurrus).

Photo by Ian Panelo on Pexels.com

When I began reading Mexican Gothic, I had vibes of somewhere between Gossip Girl and Wuthering Heights: debutante and socialite NoemĂ­ is the GG and the dark and foreboding landscape is WH. After multiple Wuthering Heights references, I was glad we were all on the same page. Plus, NoemĂ­ Traboada’s intelligence and tenacity make her an admirable heroine.

Let me explain my post title: a dusty earl grey tea sounds just right for reading a book that centers around a foggy forest and where the author uses colors like grey almost as if they were characters. Plus, have you ever had a London Fog latte? It’s delicious. I’ve also had an amazing earthy and vanilla rooibos latte… but I digress.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

The color descriptions and references to the natural world bring this novel to another level. It’s one thing to be told that something has a golden hue and it’s entirely another to show how that affects the whole scene. Moreno-Garcia is a master at this; her descriptions are compelling and mesmerizing.

Jessica Wick at NPR wrote, “The Gothics knew the only thing more full of horrors than the landscape is the human heart, that the human heart is a haunting.”

How beautiful is that statement.

And how accurate!

I had anticipated Mexican Gothic to be more of a psychological/medical thriller but what I got was a gripping tale whose icy tendrils I can feel clawing at me as I think about going to bed.

I would still love there to be a sequel. Silvia if you ever read this – I implore you to write a sequel!

A good book is like a companion: for a few days you go everywhere together, the conversation is never dull, then when the escapade is over you aren’t sure what to do with yourself.

Mexican Gothic is that companion.

Grab a cup of tea and let me know what you thought of Mexican Gothic! Happy reading, friends!

PS. In a couple days I’ll be doing a supplementary post on the theme of nature in Mexican Gothic. It’s an ecocritical approach that will dive into the content of the book. Subscribe to get notified when this new post goes live!