Tokyo Ever After by. Emiko Jean | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Title: Tokyo Ever After (#1)

Format: ebook (kindle unlimited)

Author: Emiko Jean

Pages: 336

Publication Date: 5/17/21

Categories: Young Adult, Romance, Japanese Royalty, Contemporary, Teen

Izumi Tanaka has never really felt like she fit in—it isn’t easy being Japanese American in her small, mostly white, northern California town. Raised by a single mother, it’s always been Izumi—or Izzy, because “It’s easier this way”—and her mom against the world. But then Izzy discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity… and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Which means outspoken, irreverent Izzy is literally a princess.

In a whirlwind, Izzy travels to Japan to meet the father she never knew and discover the country she always dreamed of. But being a princess isn’t all ball gowns and tiaras. There are conniving cousins, a hungry press, a scowling but handsome bodyguard who just might be her soulmate, and thousands of years of tradition and customs to learn practically overnight.

Izzy soon finds herself caught between worlds, and between versions of herself—back home, she was never “American” enough, and in Japan, she must prove she’s “Japanese” enough. Will Izumi crumble under the weight of the crown, or will she live out her fairytale, happily ever after?

Content Warning:

I found this on kindle unlimited and thought I could use something different from my fantasy books. This totally reminded me of the movie “What a Girl Wants” with Colin Firth and Amanda Bynes! Do you remember it? American girl finds out her dad is like a wealthy guy in England and she goes to meet him? Anyway here’s what I thought about Tokyo Ever After:

+ It’s a fun trope – girl finds out she’s actually daughter of the Crown Prince of Japan! So she goes to finally meet him and learn about royalty life and try to get know her dad.

+ The setting of Japan and learning Japanese culture is wonderful. I love the mentions of the royal family, the food, different cities like Tokyo and Kyoto – Izumi gets a whirlwind introduction to her homeland plus learning princess duties on top of that. Mind you she’s only there for 2 weeks – so a lot happens.

+ Another fun trope in the book: princess falling for her bodyguard. Swoon! I thought their romance was so sweet as he starts off grumpy and she’s new to the country. They get to know each other more because of close proximity, but it moves fast and we get some stolen kisses and even a scandal in the story.

+~ Izumi is a teenager and when she leaves American to visit Japan, she tries to figure where she belongs. She doesn’t feel American enough in America, and doesn’t feel Japanese enough in Japan. So she really does her best, trying to figure those things and I think she does great. She has a great group of girlfriends who is always keeping her grounded.

~+ It’s a book definitely that will appeal to teens. Don’t know if it will appeal to older readers but I enjoyed it a lot, and I’m way older.

~ Whirlwind romance in two weeks means it’s insta-love but I don’t mind it. Just noting it for those who don’t like insta-love.

Tropes: girl learns she is a princess, princess falls for bodyguard, girl tries fitting in

Spice Level:

Why you should read it:

  • lots of enjoyable tropes
  • light-hearted, fluffy story – reminds me of the movie “What a Girl Wants” or “Princess Diaries” but with Japanese culture
  • cute insta-love story

Why you might not want to read it:

  • insta-love
  • more appealing for teens

My Thoughts:

I thought this story was entertaining and fun. I love the trope where the girl finds out she’s a princess! There are other fun tropes in this book as well. I’ll definitely read the next book!

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

This Coven Won’t Break by. Isabel Sterling | Book Review

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Title: This Coven Won’t Break (These Witches Don’t Burn, #2)

Author: Isabel Sterling

Format: hardcover (borrowed)

Pages: 321

Publication Date: 5/19/20

Publisher: Razorbill

Categories: Young Adult, Witches, Romance, Duology, Paranormal, LGBT

In this gripping, romantic sequel to These Witches Don’t Burn, Hannah must work alongside her new girlfriend to take down the Hunters desperate to steal her magic.

Hannah Walsh just wants a normal life. It’s her senior year, so she should be focusing on classes, hanging out with her best friend, and flirting with her new girlfriend, Morgan. But it turns out surviving a murderous Witch Hunter doesn’t exactly qualify as a summer vacation, and now the rest of the Hunters seem more intent on destroying her magic than ever.

When Hannah learns the Hunters have gone nationwide, armed with a serum capable of taking out entire covens at once, she’s desperate to help. Now, with witches across the country losing the most important thing they have—their power—Hannah could be their best shot at finally defeating the Hunters. After all, she’s one of the only witches to escape a Hunter with her magic intact.

Or so everyone believes. Because as good as she is at faking it, doing even the smallest bit of magic leaves her in agony. The only person who can bring her comfort, who can make her power flourish, is Morgan. But Morgan’s magic is on the line, too, and if Hannah can’t figure out how to save her—and the rest of the Witches—she’ll lose everything she’s ever known. And as the Hunters get dangerously close to their final target, will all the Witches in Salem be enough to stop an enemy determined to destroy magic for good?

This series reminds me of the paranormal books that started my obsession with the genre and everything in it since I was a teenager. It has the witches and witch hunters who are enemies. The beauty of this one that the books I read as a teenager didn’t have is the lgbt romance.

I didn’t re-read book one but I could kind of remember what happened in it just by jumping into book two. Hannah is now with Morgan, a Blood Witch – the kind of witch even Hannah’s coven looked down upon for ages. But Hannah and Morgan make it work because they are seriously into one another.

The story is a light, quick read, with a race against finding the poison the witch hunters have concocted to remove magic from all witches. Hannah also has to figure out what has happened to her magic and why Blood Witch magic can actually help her and not harm her.

Triggers: violence

I did enjoy the first book more than this one but I still think this was a solid conclusion. I mentioned it was nostalgic and reminds me of paranormal books from the years ago and yes it gives me that fun, light, thrilling vibe where we are in it with the characters to stop disaster from happening. It would make a fun tv show!

I thought Benton turning around to help Hannah in this one seemed like a stretch. Yes he was conditioned and brainwashed by his parents and then all of a sudden he realizes it wasn’t all supposed to happen this way? He wasn’t supposed to burn her at the stake? I wouldn’t have forgiven him so easily haha. And the betrayal at the end by the true villain felt rushed.

I’m all for witch stories and this one is not only witchy but it has a lot of LGBT representation. The f/f romance is sweet, now that Hannah is over her ex Veronica. Overall, I thought this was a light, quick read and a solid ending to a fun, paranormal duology.

📚 ~ Yolanda

Wild Lands | Book Review

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Title: Wild Lands (Savage Lands, #2)

Author: Stacey Marie Brown

Format: eBook (own)

Pages: 297

Published Date: 2/9/21

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Categories: New Adult, Urban Fantasy, Adult, Fae

Brexley has endured starvation and survived torture and even Warwick Farkas, the brutal legend who still haunts her like a ghost, spilling into her thoughts and life. His betrayal made her a prisoner of Killian, the gorgeous Fae Lord of Budapest. 

There her life takes another unforeseen twist, something that will change the fragile alliance between the humans and the fae, and Brexley finds herself in the middle.

As weeks go by, Brexley also discovers Killian isn’t the malicious leader she was told about. As they spend more time together, their relationship begins to shift. However, when an old acquaintance turns up, she is given the chance to escape the sexy fae leader, and her entire world explodes. 

Brexley is thrown into a nefarious web of politics, desire, betrayal, lies, and truths that will shatter her foundation and who she is, what she believes, and who can be trusted. No longer is there a clear line between good and bad.

Hunted by both sides, Brexley is on the run and must untangle all the lies, deceit, and deceptions, before she becomes another victim in the wild lands.

  • Intense. That’s the word that describes this book and series so far. I like that the intensity continued in this second book but I’d say not as much as the first book.
  • We get to meet a bunch of new characters in this book, one of them being Killian, the infamous fae lord. He is the typical gorgeous, deadly male fae but what is it about Brexley that softens him? No one knows what she is or why she draws men to her. When Brex is with Killian she learns more about the fae and the pills she stole off the train from book one. Is she still human enough that she belongs on the other side of the river with Caden and her friends or is she fae? No one knows.
  • Opie and Bitzy are so funny! I’m glad they are there in the story to add some humor! I love them.
  • There is a lot of action as usual in this book and Warwick Farkas brings it with the motorcycle chases and explosions, among other things.
  • Speaking of Warwick and Brex, the chemistry between is undeniable, their interactions get a little kinky with the whole not being together but being able to see one another aspect of their relationship. Honestly I just wished they would just do it already, in person – we know they will end up together, right? Let’s just get the ball rolling! Haha…they can’t even stand each other but we do find out a little more of their beginnings.
  • There are a few twists in this story and I liked it, especially at the end! I look forward to reading book three.
  • Brex gets to kiss a lot of guys in this one, but all I want is a kiss between her and Warwick. Like, come on. I didn’t might the one with Killian, Caden is a big NO, but Warwick is the biggest teaser. Let them give in to one another already! I was wondering at some point if this was a reverse harem kind of story and I hope it’s not, because I’d like Warwick and Brex to be together. I’m not a big fan of reverse harem. A lot of erotic scenes in this one.
  • What is Brex? She has to be fae, right? Brex was bouncing from place to place, seriously this girl is trying to find where she belongs. I hope she does in the end (with Warwick lol).
  • This book was too short and I read it so fast! I’m glad the wait for book three isn’t too long.

Wild Lands took me on a very wild, intense ride and I enjoyed every minute of it. I look forward to Dead Lands to see what happens to Brex and if we find out more about her and what she is. And please just have her and Warwick end up together already? They need to stop fighting their connection but I will say it adds to the intensity of the story – they have such a love/hate relationship. Can’t wait for the next book!

📚 ~ Yolanda

A Twist of the Blade | Book Review

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Title: A Twist of the Blade (Shadows and Crowns, #2)

Author: S.M. Gaither

Format: eBook (Kindle Unlimited)

Pages:

Publication Date: 1/28/21

Categories: Young Adult, New Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Friendship

Mercenary. Survivor. Queen. 

Who is Casia Greythorne?


Still reeling from an unimaginable loss and the revelation of an identity she isn’t sure she wants to embrace, Casia has one plan: Try to control something. Something like the strange magic awakening inside of her. Mastering that magic will take her and her friends on a quest through cursed lands, into the dwellings of old gods, and deep into a southern empire filled with deadly foes and unlikely allies.

Meanwhile, the foundations of the Kethran Empire continue to crumble. The king-emperor clings to his crown with increasingly bloodied hands. Monsters and soldiers alike stalk Casia’s every step, determined not to let her return to claim a throne that is rightfully hers. Still, the greatest threat to her possible rule may not lie in the king-emperor, but in a former captain of his army—a man that she came dangerously close to falling in love with.

Elander Revenmar thought he knew who he was. He had a mission, a plan, a god he was content to serve. Then came Casia. A woman as mysterious as she is dangerous. One he should have stayed away from, and whose life he never should have saved.

Because salvation always comes with a cost. 

And some debts can only be paid for in blood. 
  • World Building ~ I really enjoy the story about the Gods and their revenge on humans. Cas was in Oblivion at the ending of book one but she doesn’t stay long. She needs to find her friends and stop her brother Varen from world domination. So Cas picks herself up, her broken-hearted, weakened, lost self and puts one foot in front of the other and keeps moving forward. We get to visit a different kingdom in this book which is great because Cas needs help, so she goes and seeks it out.
  • Characters ~ Cas is resilient, even when she thinks of giving up, she tries again and again and that’s so inspiring. And I love her friends, her support group that sticks by her no matter what. There were many times when the story was emotional because of what was happening to her friends.
  • Romance ~ or what is left of it…it is “complicated” as Elander likes to say. This is a story of past and present, reincarnation, a second chance, but it gets more complicated for Elander and Cas the more the truths are revealed.
  • Storytelling ~ this just flowed so easily, I read it in one night. I like how nothing is easy in this story between Cas and Elander with their romance or with Cas and Varen and their family ties. But for sure I love when Cas has her friends around her.
  • Not gonna lie, I wanted more of Elander and Cas together ~ I love them. But he kept having to disappear, he had his reasons though.

This story had action, good story telling, great world building, an inspiring main character and a complicated romance that just makes me hope so hard that Cas and Elander have a happily ever after. I look forward to reading book three which can’t come soon enough!

⚔️ ~ Yolanda

Instant Karma | Book Review

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Title: Instant Karma

Author: Marissa Meyer

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: 400

Categories: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

In this young adult contemporary romance, a girl is suddenly gifted with the ability to cast instant karma on those around her—both good and bad.

Chronic overachiever Prudence Barnett is always quick to cast judgment on the lazy, rude, and arrogant residents of her coastal town. Her dreams of karmic justice are fulfilled when, after a night out with her friends, she wakes up with the sudden ability to cast instant karma on those around her. Pru giddily makes use of the power, punishing everyone from public vandals to karaoke hecklers, but there is one person on whom her powers consistently backfire: Quint Erickson, her slacker of a lab partner and all-around mortal enemy. Soon, Pru begins to uncover truths about Quint, her peers, and even herself that reveal how thin the line is between virtue and vanity, generosity and greed . . . love and hate. 

  • I enjoyed the slow burn of Prudence and Quint’s relationship. Their partnership during the school project was quite intense. They do not like each other and honestly…I can see Quint’s point because being micro-managed is the worst! Yet I relate to Prudence where you know you will pick up the slack of the other team member if need be for a good grade. I like that we see them get to be friends first though.
  • Love the theme of environmentalism and this story set in a coastal town. Who doesn’t love a story about trying to save wildlife?
  • Prudence isn’t perfect, she’s just Type A controlling at times and super ambitious – which is a good thing, because she is determined to reach her goals. I’m glad Quint was there to call her out on some things though because she was super judgmental when it came to Quint. I just wanted to shake some sense into her sometimes.
  • Prudence got on my nerves a lot. Poor Quint! I like that she learns a lot of things in the end, like how it’s not all about business and making money, that causes have to actually mean something if you want other people to care about it too.
  • The instant karma..”magic” for me didn’t work at times…especially when it kind of disappears in the middle of the book? Haha…I guess everyone was on good behavior or something? It was an interesting idea though, and Prudence learned from it in the end.

Overall, this was a quick read and I enjoyed the enemies to lovers vibe with Prudence and Quint. I’m not a fan of Prudence though, she seriously needed to let go of control but I’m sure my husband says the same about me. 🤣 Basically no one is perfect but if you can listen to the other person and let them help out, good things can actually happen.

📚 ~ Yolanda

A Curse of Ash and Embers | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: A Curse of Ash & Embers

Author: Jo Spurrier

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 272

Publication Date: 11/3/20

Publisher: Voyager

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Witches

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

A dead witch. A bitter curse. A battle of magic.

Some people knit socks by the fire at night. Gyssha Blackbone made monsters.

But the old witch is dead now, and somehow it’s Elodie’s job to clean up the mess.

When she was hired at Black Oak Cottage, Elodie had no idea she’d find herself working for a witch; and her acid-tongued new mistress, Aleida, was not expecting a housemaid to turn up on her doorstep.

Gyssha’s final curse left Aleida practically dead on her feet, and now, with huge monsters roaming the woods, a demonic tree lurking in the orchard and an angry warlock demanding repayment of a debt, Aleida needs Elodie’s help, whether she likes it or not.

And no matter what the old witch throws at her, to Elodie it’s still better than going back home.

Thank you to Voyager and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC!

My Attention: it couldn’t hold my attention

World Building: Black Oak Cottage, witches and a mystery to uncover

Writing Style: atmospheric

Bringing the Heat: none

Crazy in Love: nope – not crazy

Creativity: magic, witches and monsters

Mood: mixed feelings

Triggers: violence

My Takeaway: Elodie is a strong and brave young woman who can take care of herself.

  • I enjoyed the story of Aleida and Gyssha, the witches of Black Oak Cottage. When Elodie meets Aleida, Black Oak Cottage isn’t in good condition. We learn about Gyssha’s demise and then more about the witches’ history but Aleida is pretty fierce.
  • The female characters in this book are strong. Elodie is a great character because she is literally just turned out from her home. Her step-father wants her gone and unfortunately her mother agrees it’s time for her to go. She’s a young woman, away from family and home. Elodie is smart, and isn’t afraid to ask questions. I liked her inquiring mind as she met different people like the wizard.
  • The writing is wonderful and atmospheric. There is action and danger to keep things somewhat exciting.
  • Unfortunately, I found myself bored at times reading this story because it moves slowly like a mystery.
  • Would have liked a little more romance, but that’s a personal thing for me because I love romance in my stories.

This book may have not captured my full attention but many people who read young adult fantasy will enjoy this story very much. It has witches, action, danger and a girl named Elodie who finds a new home in the most unexpected place.

Incendiary | Book Review

My Review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2

Title: Incendiary (Hollow Crown, #1)

Author: Zoraida Cordova

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: 384

Categories: Magic, Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance

I am Renata Convida.
I have lived a hundred stolen lives.
Now I live my own.

Renata Convida was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King’s Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucia. As a Robari, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata’s ability to steal memories from royal enemies enabled the King’s Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people.

Now Renata is one of the Whispers, rebel spies working against the crown and helping the remaining Moria escape the kingdom bent on their destruction. The Whispers may have rescued Renata from the palace years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred–or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she turned “hollow” during her time in the palace.

When Dez, the commander of her unit, is taken captive by the notorious Sangrado Prince, Renata will do anything to save the boy whose love makes her place among the Whispers bearable. But a disastrous rescue attempt means Renata must return to the palace under cover and complete Dez’s top secret mission. Can Renata convince her former captors that she remains loyal, even as she burns for vengeance against the brutal, enigmatic prince? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.

But returning to the palace stirs childhood memories long locked away. As Renata grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the entire fate of the kingdom–and end the war that has cost her everything.

My Attention: read in 3 days

World Building: epic world building inspired by Spanish Inquisition era

Writing Style: flowed nicely, story slowed down a bit in the middle

Crazy in Love: so in love 

Creativity: Moira people have magic, Whispers are the Moira rebels fighting the king of Puerto Leones

Triggers: grief, violence, death, torture

My Takeaway: Who can you really trust?

  • That cover is pretty amazing!
  • I liked learning about the world of the Moira, people with different magic. Renata is a Robari, she can take memories and even do it to the extent to kill or “hollow” out a person. Other magics include persuasion, illusions and reading minds. The Moira have been pushed out of their homes and they are being hunted by the King of Puerto Leones. Now the king has a weapon that would ensure the destruction of the Moira for good.
  • Renata is a Robari so a lot of what her character does is taking memories and examining them. But her past is a mystery to her – she remembers some things, but not everything. This is a weakness for her. She’s a fighter, she’s tough and brave, but because she can’t fully face the memories of her past, there are things she misses and it causes her to make some mistakes. I thought it was fascinating to watch her deal with feeling like an outcast with both the rebels and being in the palace.
  • There are some twists and turns in this story that was like putting together a puzzle. But I could only really piece them together through Ren taking memories. It definitely drew an unexpected picture of evil Prince Castian!
  • This story is dark – I mean the Spanish Inquisition, with all that torture? 😒
  • The story starts off fast, with action but it dies off somewhere in the middle. Then picks up again to finish strong. I think what was missing for me was Prince Caspian making a real appearance throughout the book. He is there at the beginning and the end, the middle felt like a mystery and slow…I just wished he was there throughout the whole thing, just to give Ren someone to battle.
  • The beginning starts off with no world building, you get thrown into the story with a lot of action – so I did have to get my bearings.
  • So that cliffhanger ending…what the heck is going to happen in book two?!

This story grew on me. I found the world building interesting, even though the rebels with magic versus the king who hated magic trope is pretty similar to many young adult fantasy books out there. I think the Spanish Inquisition inspiration makes it stand out. Renata with her missing memories and taking memories is a fascinating character, and so is Prince Castian who we still don’t really know much about! And yes, I will be reading book two because that ending was pretty crazy.

💕 ~ Yolanda

ARC Review | These Vengeful Hearts

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: These Vengeful Hearts

Author: Katherine Laurin

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 384

Publication Date: September 8, 2020

Categories: Young Adult, Contemporary, Revenge, Secret Society, Romance

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Anyone can ask the Red Court for a favor…but every request comes at a cost. And once the deed is done, you’re forever in their debt.

Whenever something scandalous happens at Heller High, the Red Court is the name on everyone’s lips. Its members–the most elite female students in the school–deal out social ruin and favors in equal measure, their true identities a secret known only to their ruthless leader: the Queen of Hearts.

Sixteen-year-old Ember Williams has seen firsthand the damage the Red Court can do. Two years ago, they caused the accident that left her older sister paralyzed. Now, Ember is determined to hold them accountable…by taking the Red Court down from the inside.

But crossing enemy lines will mean crossing moral boundaries, too–ones Ember may never be able to come back from. She always knew taking on the Red Court would come at a price, but will the cost of revenge be more than she’s willing to sacrifice?

Thank you to Inkyard Press and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

These Vengeful Hearts is a mean girls story. There is a secret group at Heller High called The Red Court and they rule the school in a way. If you want something to happen, you can get in touch with The Red Court and they can help you with your goal. But in turn, they can come to collect a favor from you when it’s needed.

Ember Williams has revenge on her mind, but when she’s finally a part of the infamous court, can she carry out her plans?

  • Love the cover of this book and the concept of the story. Ember Williams is going to take down the red court because they hurt someone she loves. But once she is in, she admits she likes being part of a group that is in control of people’s lives. I liked seeing Ember walk her tight rope balancing revenge, lies, romance and eventually truth.
  • Ember has a cool best friend, Gideon, and I love their relationship. He tells her things straight out and tries to keep her level-headed about her revenge scheme.
  • The romance, though it starts off because of a Red Court mission…is something I did enjoy because Ember comes clean, but Chase does too. Anyway I’m glad even through it, things work out. The romance isn’t the main story which is nice too, it just shows how lies can hurt.
  • I liked the twist in the story, it made things even worse for Ember but…it made her realize, truth was the right thing in the end.

  • As much as I love the concept of the book, I didn’t feel like the story was sinister enough at times. The first half was losing steam and thank goodness it picked up in the second half but The Red Court just seemed to be breaking couples up and rigging homecoming election. So, it didn’t seem like a big deal at first but that was my biggest issue with the book.
  • Maybe it was all too predictable and it had so much potential to be more…I was expecting more.
  • Triggers: bullying

Overall, I enjoyed the story okay enough, mostly in the second half when Ember has to decide her course of action but I do believe this story had so much potential and fell a bit short. Main lesson from the story: if you live honestly then you have nothing to hide! It’s a good lesson. The teaser of a Black Court in the end left me intrigued! I’m not sure if there is a sequel…but if there is, I may read it to see where the story goes.

The Last Story of Mina Lee | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Last Story of Mina Lee

Author: Nancy Jooyoun Kim

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 384

Publication Date: 9/1/20

Publisher: Park Row

Categories: Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Mother/Daughter Relationship, Korean Culture, Mystery, Family, Grief, Immigration, Identity

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from the Publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, isn’t returning her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, LA, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous invisible strings that held together her single mother’s life as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother.

Interwoven with Margot’s present-day search is Mina’s story of her first year in Los Angeles as she navigates the promises and perils of the American myth of reinvention. While she’s barely earning a living by stocking shelves at a Korean grocery store, the last thing Mina ever expects is to fall in love. But that love story sets in motion a series of events that have consequences for years to come, leading up to the truth of what happened the night of her death.

Told through the intimate lens of a mother and daughter who have struggled all their lives to understand each other, The Last Story of Mina Lee is a powerful and exquisitely woven debut novel that explores identity, family, secrets, and what it truly means to belong.

Thank you to Park Row and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

Now let’s break it down!

My Attention: it had my attention

World Building: Koreatown, Los Angeles

Writing Style: beautiful, lyrical writing

Bringing the Heat: none 

Crazy in Love: not a romance story

Creativity: I don’t usually enjoy flashbacks in a story, but it worked so well in this particular story as we see both journey of mom and daughter

Mood: broken hearted

Triggers: grief, suicidal thoughts/attempts, depression, death, mentions of abuse, harassment, deportation

My Takeaway: Everyone has a past – some stories we just don’t know until we dig for the truth. Also sometimes love looks different to people.

  • This is an introspective tale about a mother and daughter whose relationship isn’t close. It’s tense, and there are so many differences separating them. This is a painful story…you can feel the despair and loneliness that Mina Lee feels all her life from the moment she is separated from her parents. Mina has lived with trauma all her life and it has affected her and her daughter. Imagine, not having family? ☹️
  • This story goes deep. It’s not a happy story at all. It is heartbreaking – it doesn’t shy away from Mina’s suicidal thoughts. Mina experiences so much loss and struggle, her story broke my heart over and over. And then her daughter Margot who just wanted to be away from her…I could feel her struggle to love her daughter and yet not know how to love her the way Margot wanted her to. There is no bridge between them while Mina is alive. It’s only after her death that Margot starts to piece things together and heal as she faces the truths about her life and her mother.
  • Usually mystery stories don’t hold my attention, because it’s a slow build but in this story Mina’s life intrigued me since she was so private about her past.
  • The story touches on the struggle of immigrants, documented or not, as they assimilate in America. In this instance Mina and Margot make their life in Koreatown – Los Angeles, California. I love how the author brings issues of the Korean American experience to the surface. My parents are Filipino immigrants and in that sense I could relate to the story a lot. When the author touches on the language barriers, the job opportunities, the American “dream” and what it looks like for different people, it really resonated with me and made me think of my own parents. Do immigrants truly ever feel like they belong here?
  • The writing is beautiful. I was highlighting sentences like crazy.
  • This is a slow unfolding story – don’t go into it thinking it’s a fast paced story. The mystery of how Margot’s mom dies is why Margot starts digging yet she can only get the version the few people who knew Mina could tell her. And seriously, only one person knew Mina, Mrs. Baek and even then, she didn’t know Mina fully! Mina was secretive, because she didn’t want to love people and lose them again.
  • Margot has one friend, Miguel, who helps her out in Los Angeles, but though they seem close – even that relationship seems somewhat superficial. He’s there for her but Margot doesn’t seem to let people get super close to her as well. I’m glad she wasn’t totally alone, because that would have been even more tragic.
  • Mina’s lost everyone and then she dies? When the mystery is solved I felt like it was so unfair! How realistic was the conclusion though? I think that part threw me off a little. I did like Margot’s journey to the truth though, that’s the most important thing.

This story pummeled me in the heart. I found myself agreeing with Margot so many times because I grew up with immigrant parents as well. Mina’s story is absolutely heartbreaking and I wish so much she had a happier ending but real life is not like that. At least Margot has a chance to change things in her life and to heal. This is a moving, heartbreaking, eye-opening Own Voices story about the strained relationship between a mother and daughter as well as the search for identity.

Read an EXCERPT here: https://pastmidnight.home.blog/?p=5209

ARC Review | The Silvered Serpents (The Gilded Wolves, #2)

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: The Silvered Serpents (The Gilded Wolves, #2)

Author: Roshani Chokshi

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 416

Publication Date: September 22, 2020

Categories: Historical, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

They are each other’s fiercest love, greatest danger, and only hope.

Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but victory came at a terrible cost ― one that still haunts all of them. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumoured to grant its possessor the power of God.

Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into icy heart of Russia where crystalline ice animals stalk forgotten mansions, broken goddesses carry deadly secrets, and a string of unsolved murders makes the crew question whether an ancient myth is a myth after all.

As hidden secrets come to the light and the ghosts of the past catch up to them, the crew will discover new dimensions of themselves. But what they find out may lead them down paths they never imagined.

A tale of love and betrayal as the crew risks their lives for one last job.

Thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

I don’t know what I was expecting from this book but wow, I waited to read this arc because the publication got pushed back but I’m glad I finally did read it!

We return to the world of The Gilded Wolves, but the crew has been torn apart by the death of Tristan, Severin’s brother. They come together again for another mission to find a mythological artifact – The Divine Lyrics. This time their quest takes them to Russia and Siberia. Severin wants it badly to make him and his friends, gods. Yet Laila needs it to stay alive. Once again we have the amazing characters I came to love in book one, but this time they are dealing with grief and questioning their self-worth. The heists, puzzles, riddles, action and surprises make this sequel so much more exciting to me than the first book. But this one also broke my heart! 🥺

  • The characters are what make this series. They are awesome and diverse! I love how they are all different and have fascinating back stories. Enrique is my favorite, but Hypnos really shined in this one too. They are all smart and skilled in their own ways but in this sequel we see their vulnerabilities and it got me in the feels. I am heartbroken for all of them, for losing Tristan. But Enrique and Zophia kept this mission afloat – they had to since Severin and Laila were falling apart.
  • The clues, riddles, high stakes, and heists are so much fun to me. I love, love, love Enrique’s inquisitive mind and capacity for memorizing historical information. But there are dangerous moments in this sequel as well and the twists in the story were good too!
  • There is so much emotion in this book: grief being a major part of it for Severin and all of them really, but Severin most of all. Also the wall between Severin and Laila was hurting my heart. They love each other but Severin fears love because it can be lost, like how Tristan was. The same for Laila – why love Severin when knowing her life could be lost soon, she doesn’t want to hurt him. They all want love and to be loved yet there is so much fear in it too. The ending gutted me, when love is explained as something that looks different to people – I felt that strongly.
  • Hypnos…I mentioned him earlier, but thank goodness he brings such humor to this story. I love him.
  • Severin takes a back seat in this story…and he is COLD hearted in this one. He is dealing with grief but wow…he is not the same guy from book one – and I was scared how far he’d gone at the end! We shall see what happens to him in the next book.
  • Sometimes there is so much information that Enrique is spewing out, I get lost LOL…which is funny because he mentions he feels like no one cares or listens to him. He is my fave but even sometimes his incessant talking goes over my head…and why am I talking about him like he’s real?! 🤣😍
  • Triggers: blood (a new character, a blood forger is introduced), violence, grief

I loved this book more than the first one! It was faster in pace, with another high stakes quest but with the crew falling apart at times. Yet there were funny moments too especially with Hypnos helping them out. I loved seeing the characters deal with their vulnerabilities, which was so relatable. And the thing I take away from this book is love – how it looks different to every one of us but we all want love. Love from family, from a friend, or from a partner. ❤️ But love is scary too because the pain of losing a loved one is hell. There are a few quotes from this book that I absolutely adore but can’t post since it’s an arc…but it made me want to weep, for Severin and the rest of the crew. Definitely looking forward to the next book!