The Christmas Song Book Tag

Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh, o’er the fields we go, laughing all the way…

Am I the only one who has christmas jingles stuck in my head since the past couple of days? I mean I literally cannot seem to get rid of them and my mind unhelpfully supplies them at the oddest of times. Trying to recall the periodic table? “jingle bells jingle bells” Trying to square 33 mentally? “we wish you a merry christmas and a happy new year” See what I mean?

I’m also eating plum cake as I type this, so the conclusion is that the christmas vibes have totally settled in over here.

Anyway. We’ve got a very appropriate tag for this wondrous occasion – The Christmas Song book tag! I saw this tag on Maddie’s blog, and it looked fun so here we are!

You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch

~ Name a villainous character you can’t help but love ~

Kaz Brekker, though I’d never for the life of me call him ‘villainous’. And also Nasir Ghameq (i’m sorry but he’s an assassin so… but I love him okay?)

All I Want For Christmas Is You

~ Which book to you most hope to see under your Christmas tree? ~

Our Violent Ends (These Violent Delights, #2)

I’m surprised by how easy this was to answer. The book I’m craving most at the moment is Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong (under a metaphorical tree because we don’t really celebrate christmas that much) because of obvious reasons that I dare not elaborate without bursting into tears all over again.

“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”

~Name a character that overcomes major obstacles and learns to believe in themselves ~

This Last Adventure

Um okay literally almost every main character? But since I’m bound by the unwritten rules of book tags, I’ll pick Archie from This Last Adventure by Ryan Dalton. It’s about how he handles his grandfather’s growing memory loss due to Alzheimer’s so obstacles? There’s a lot of them. (but more about that in my review later)

“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”

~Which character do you think would be on the top of the naughty and nice list?~

Naughty list, let’s see. The Darkling? I mean, I finished King of Scars yesterday so he’s the first one to come to mind, and rightfully. (*wagging finger* no gifts for you kirigan)

Look there are a lot of competitors for the nice list okay? But again, remember the unwritten rules of book tags? Yeah, i thought so. Once again I’d pick from King Of Scars, and it’d be Matthias. (i thought i was over him, but then Bardugo had to go write this duology)

“Frosty the Snowman”

~Which book just melts your heart?~

The House in the Cerulean Sea

To answer your unasked question (but you were going to ask, hmm?), no it’s not a contemporary. The House In The Cerulean Sea seriously has so much feeling; believe me when I say Klune’s a magician.

Klune: *writes House In The Cerulean Sea*
Me: *while reading it* omg so adorable, my heart *eyes well up*
Klune: oh you think i’m only good at making people cry? challenge accepted *writes the Extraordinaries trilogy*
Me: *while reading it* omg. omg. what. wh- *undignified giggles and snorts*
Klune: the show’s not over yet! *writes Under The Whispering Door*
Me: *buys a copy as soon as it is out but is too afraid to read it and have her heart shattered* (don’t worry I’ll get to it. eventually.)

“Feliz Navidad”

~ Choose a book that takes place in a country other than your own ~

Yeah no this is too easy, hardly any book I read nowadays is set in India. Let’s go with We Are Not Free by Traci Chee, which is set in America after the bombing of the Pearl Harbour.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”

~Which holiday themed book do you use to spread the Christmas joy?~

The Miracle on Ebenezer Street

I haven’t read a lot of Christmassy books, but The Miracle Of Ebenezer Street is one I distinctly remember. There’s so much christmas merriment! and joy! and cheer!

“Sleigh Ride”

~Which fictional character would you choose to spend the holidays with (doesn’t have to be a love interest!)~

I’d love to have some cheerful and sarcastic characters around so – Aideen (from Not My Problem), Jesper (Six of Crows), Nikolai (King of Scars) and such would be my top picks.

“Baby its cold outside”

~Which book that you didn’t like would you sacrifice to a fire to warm yourself up in the cold?~

The Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1)

As much as I would like to gasp and say “oh no i’d never do that to a book!!”, I unfortunately have had the (dis)honour of having read The Young Elites by Marie Lu, and I despise it with all my heart so into the flames it goes. (it’s probably best that I don’t own a physical copy of this)

“Do you hear what i hear”

~Which book do you think everyone should read?~

Now that. Is. Hard. You want me to rattle off a list of my favourites? Or recommend a book that will magically make non-readers readers? (it doesn’t exist sorry) Or maybe a book that people of all ages, and fans of all genres will love? (that doesn’t exist either)

So very graciously, we are going to skip this question and not talk about it. (and yes I run away from problems instead of facing them) don’t tell a soul.

i tag…

Amber @EscapeLifeInThePages || Georgia @Lost In Neverland || Saima @Stories With Saima

Which book do you hope to see under your Christmas tree? Which is your favourite Christmas-themed book? Let me know in the comments!!

~ Rachel

My Worst Reads Of 2021! // ft. a lot of disappointed sighing

Someone stole my Office keys. He’s gonna pay, you have my Word. (get it? like Microsoft Office? MS Word?)

Oh hi. Yeah I don’t know what happened there. Obviously my poor attempt at lightening the mood was unsuccessful. Well then. Points for effort.

Sooo. As part of wrapping up the year, you’ll be seeing a lot of these bookish lists on my blog this month. And what better to start off than a list of the worst books I read this year, right? What can I say, I always believe in getting over and done with the bad stuff first. (if you ever say to me “i have good news and bad news”, like they do in the movies, you know, I’ll always vote for the bad news)

Some quick little pointers before we start!
– all of this is based on personal opinion. Though I didn’t like these books for whatever reason, that doesn’t mean I hate their fans. If you liked these books, i’m happy for you.
– this list is in no particular order, though I did dislike some books more than the others.

With that out of the way, let’s get started right away!

~ The Young Elites by Marie Lu ~
The Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1)

Ironically, The Young Elites was our first pick for the hype-o-meter series (a series of posts in which I and my dear friend April determine whether or not a book is truly worth the hype), because hello, it’s Marie Lu, the popular author whose books everybody seems to love.

I think this book and me got off in the wrong foot (the initial scenes weren’t very encouraging), and after that, well, everything just went more and more downhill. I mean okay, so Ms Lu tried very hard to create morally grey characters but they just turned out to be conflicted and confused about everything in their life. And to top that, the narration was first person, and if I despise the main character, do you really think I’d be interested in seeing the world through their eyes? I mean, Adelina had no direction. She thought something, said something else and did something totally different (and often these actions were stupid). Add to this sorely underdeveloped characters and you get a recipe for what Rachel dislikes in a book.

~ The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman ~
The Infinity Courts (The Infinity Courts, #1)

This. This was the biggest disappointment this year, maybe the biggest ever in my life. Maybe it was my fault for having huge expectations? I read this back in the month of April, just a few days after it got released. This honestly had SO much potential, the concept was mind-blowing, but the execution just fell flat. *sigh* Nami as the main character and also our narrator was so repetitive that it got really annoying. Unpopular opinion, i know.
Then the plot twist at the end was sort of lazy writing, to get the reader excited for the sequel i guess. I don’t know. I just didn’t care.

~ Shadow Jumper by J.M Forster~
Shadow Jumper (Shadow Jumper #1)

To be honest, the first part of the book wasn’t bad. In fact, it was good. But I have no idea what happened after that. Like everything seemed too hasty and not properly researched. The plot was quite predictable and the conclusion was extremely unsatisfactory too. I think I also read this during the time I was just giving up on middle grade, so that might have played a part too.

~ The Middler by Kirsty Applebaum ~
The Middler

Once again, the synopsis was so promising, even the whole concept of ” the middle child being bad luck” was unique, but the story as a whole failed to deliver. I read this way back, in February, so I don’t even remember much of it. From what I recall, I almost dnf’ed it several times, it was so monotonous. I felt distanced from the characters; I didn’t care what happened to them. The escapades seemed too convenient and some plot points didn’t even make sense.

~ The Ones We’re Meant To Find by Joan He ~
The Ones We're Meant to Find

This is the classic “it’s not you, it’s me” case. I spent nearly the entirety of the book feeling confused and stumped. The dual povs + the switching timelines were something I couldn’t keep track of, so I barely understood what was going on. Among the things I liked were the atmosphere, the worldbuilding, and the unique take on climate change. Unfortunately it was not enough. Among the two sisters Celia and Kasey, I liked Celia’s chapters much more than Kasey’s (at least initially) and the whole “surviving on a remote island” concept was cool until it got boring, and once again, confusing. I also felt quite underwhelmed by the plot twists. Sorry but no.

Which were your worst reads of 2021? Have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Chat with me in the comments!

~ Rachel

The End Of The Year Book Tag // ft. a fraction of my tbr for 2022!

‘Tis that time of the year, folks! Okay wait no, that doesn’t sound right. I would be saying that if I’d been blogging for decades (or maybe even a couple of years) and this was my 17th time doing this annual tag. Far from it; it’s actually my first time. *sigh* So much for that one line. I’ll go with my usual “hey guys” next time.

Anyway, we have some brilliant bookish questions to answer, so let’s get started, shall we?

~Are there any books you started this year that you still need to finish?~

Not My Problem

King of Scars (King of Scars, #1)

At the time of writing, I am currently reading Not My Problem and King Of Scars. I am almost 60% in the former, but have read only a few pages of the latter. But I definitely hope to finish both in a few days.

~Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?~

Small Spaces (Small Spaces, #1)
The Haunting of Aveline Jones

Umm not really. But I do feel obliged to mention a couple of books with autumn vibes, so we are going to go with Small Spaces and The Haunting Of Aveline Jones.

~Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?~

If This Gets Out

If This Gets Out is the last 2021 release I’m waiting for.

~What are three books you want to get to before the end of the year?~

Our Violent Ends
Aurora's End (The Aurora Cycle, #3)
Rule of Wolves (King of Scars, #2)

*nervous chuckle* sooo that’s a difficult one because there are at least a million books I want to read in 2021 (or what’s left of it), you know, books I said I would read this year for sure but never got to them, books on my shelves collecting dust… but that’s a depressing line of thought so let’s move on.

I picked 3 books from my “asap tbr”, which I would very much like to get to immediately, if circumstances allow it. (by which I mean if I somehow manage to acquire a copy of OVE) All 3 are sequels of some sort, and I guess I want to read them this year so that sometime far away in the future (read: next year) I can say that I finished such-and-such series in 2021.

~ is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favorite of the year? ~

Well saying the favourite would be a bit of a stretch, since that spot (and a few spots below it as well) has already been occupied… but yeah I guess there can be a couple additions to my top 10? But also. I’ve learnt that books can surprise you when you least expect it, so no promises.

~ Have you already started making reading plans for 2022? ~

Not plans per say, but of course I’ve a huge tbr laid out for the initial months of 2022. There are SO many amazing releases (just LOOK at those covers!!) coming out next year, and also I have quite a lot of backlist books (books released in 2021 and before) that I want to read, so my tbr is a mix of all these. But (i feel like all of my answers have this ‘but’ element??) then again, who follows tbrs over here right?

Is there a 2021 release you’re still waiting for? Which are your most anticipated 2022 releases? Let me know in the comments!

~ Rachel

October + November Wrap-Up // superheroes, murder mysteries, heists and aliens

*inside a cave* Quack. Quaaaaack! *no answer*

Ahem. Sorry, I was just testing whether this unbelievable bird fact that I came across was true.
Apparently, a duck’s quack does not echo ANYWHERE, and no one knows why.

With this time’s monthly weird bird fact we have established, once more, that ducks are creepy.

I am not kidding when I say October was a terrible reading month. It was one of those hectic months when suddenly all sorts of exams and tests came up- school, coaching institute and other additional projects. However, lack of time wasn’t the only reason I didn’t read much, I also fell in a sort of reading slump. The result – only 4 books, my lowest so far this year.

The Extraordinaries (The Extraordinaries, #1)
★★★★
THE HUMOUR?! unfortunately it was a tad too predictable for my taste

Skyward (Skyward, #1)
★★★½
idk how to feel about this book

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder (A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, #1)
★★★★
the mystery was nicely constructed, but i personally am not a fan of how it was resolved at the very end

Perfect on Paper
★★★★½
ahh i finally understand the massive hype surrounding this

November was a total turnaround from October. I suddenly had lots of free time and found myself out of my slump too so naturally, lots of books and a very happy human.

The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Games, #2)
★★★
um. no. sorry.
Flash Fire (The Extraordinaries, #2)
★★★★
once again, spot on humour and the plot was better than the first one
The Helheim Princess (The Helheim Prophecy, #1)
★★★★
something about the structure of the story felt a little amateur, but otherwise all good
The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves, #1)
★★★★½
the six of crows vibes this gave me was just-
Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)
(reread)
as good as the first time if not better??
Truly Devious (Truly Devious, #1)
★★½
i am no expert but this is not how a mystery is supposed to be written. and what even was that ending?
These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights, #1)
★★★★★
whoa. just whoa. i need the sequel now😭
This Last Adventure
★★★★
so emotional and thought provoking

Hmm there’s not much to say really. I spent more than half of October on hiatus so I posted very little, and November was a pretty average month.
Here are my top 3 posts from October and November! (click on the featured images to be taken to the respective posts!)

I share my thoughts on We Are Not Free, an emotionally wrenching story set during WWII (basically a whole lot of crying and screaming)

I recommend my favourite books by POC authors and likewise leads and also share a part of my diverse tbr!

In this insanely chaotic post I choose books to throw at Jesper if I was David from the Shadow & Bone show!

Kashvi @Kerch Books lists her favourite books of the year so far!

Phoenix @Books With Wings shares 5 reasons she’s grateful for blogging!

Siena @Booksophobia discusses why she never requests arcs anymore!

Khyati @Booklore recommends books with pretty covers!

Madeline @The Bookish Mutant shares sci-fi books with the found family trope!

Amanda @Bookish Brews explains what dark fantasy is and recommends some diverse dark fantasy reads!

Isha @Paperbacktomes writes why she prefers paperbacks over hardbacks!

April @Booked Till Midnight reviews Down Comes The Night!

Aashi @Words On Fleek shares some things she gets told as a bookworm!

Gauri @ A Book And Chai lists lots of diverse 2022 debuts to look out for!

Birdie @Birdie’s Booktopia shares her anticipated releases of November!

Kaya @ A Fictional Bookworm lists the 5 tropes she can’t get enough of!

Cherry @Letters To The Lost shares her fictional bucket list!

Rania @Rania’s Rambling Reads reviews A Lesson In Vengeance!

Asic @ Haven lists the things she’d rate a 0/10!

Saima @Stories With Saima shares her top 10 books she’s read this year so far!

💨 I went on a road trip with my parents and our neighbors to Shirdi, a very popular temple where I live. The trip took a little longer than planned (we spent more than 10 hours in the car!) but okay.

💨 I created an account on Edelweiss and went on a requesting spree, not expecting to get approved for any of them. BUT I GOT APPROVED FOR MY FIRST REQUEST (Portrait of a thief) WHICH WAS ONE OF MY MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASES OF 2022!! I mean, it has a heist plot so… (I’m still waiting on my other 5 arc requests🤞)

💨 I did not touch a single cracker this Diwali! #GreenDiwali

💨 I started writing again! My WIP, which I started in late October, was abandoned for most of November, but then in the last week of November I finished writing the first chapter of my fantasy novel!!

Do you use Edelweiss? Have you read any of the books I read in these two months? Scream with me about them in the comments!

~ Rachel

Which Of These Bookish Things Give Me A Boost Of Serotonin?

Hiya people!

So I was scrolling through Buzzfeed quizzes (aka the blackhole that never fails to suck me in) related to bookworms (you know it) and found this one that, like most other quizzes, proudly decrees “If 34/50 Of These Bookish Things Give You A Boost Of Serotonin, Then You’re 100% A Bookworm”.

I have learned from personal experience never to leave the fate of my entire personality to the Buzzfeed gods. So we are not doing this quiz all hardcore “Am I a bookworm? omg I don’t know”, instead we are going to be all casual about it, okay? Okay. (trying to convince myself here) We are also not going to be dealing with all the 50 things because that’ll take wayyy too long, so I’ve selected 25 out of the 50. If you enjoy this post, do let me know so I could take up the remaining in another post!

Click here to give the quiz yourself if you’re interested!

With all that said, now we’re going to discover which of the following bookish stuff gives me a boost of serotonin, in other words, stuff that makes me happy. (serotonin – noun: key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness) Let’s get started!

This is a no because first – I started reading audiobooks very recently so I don’t think I have a favourite narrator as such, and second – I don’t really pay much attention to the narrators. As long as its comprehendible, the narration matters much less as compared to the story for me.

Yes! I don’t do much of this these days (e books have become my lifeline) but I do have a lot of complete trilogies, quartets, and even 10 or 12 book series from when I was younger!!

Yes yes yes! Until I became part of this blogosphere, I had never experienced the pure joy of somebody reading a book that I’d recommended. But its a great feeling, especially if said person loves the book as much as I did!!

No to both, because umm I don’t really notice these things.

Yes, because that means that favourite author is likely to remain a favourite author!

This largely depends on the characters, but generally that does make me happy, so I’m gonna go with yes!

Uhh no. Beautiful, but generally not for me.

Wait that’s a thing?! A thing that people actually notice and care about?? I really must pay more attention to such stuff in my books. So, yeah, no.

Its the other way around for me, so no. When I read a book, the details of a character’s person are really fuzzy in my head, but after that when I watch the adaptation, my brain associates the character with that cast member forever. (looking at S&B and their perfect cast)

I don’t really reread much, so idk.

No. I guess I like my side characters the way they are??

Yes of course, the feeling is HEAVENLY! Those who have never had their nose in a book (literally), you’re missing out!!

These are kind of related so I’m putting them together. And a million times yes to both! My library card expired like a few months ago but before that I was pretty big on the whole checking-out-books-on-a-daily-basis thing, and that was awesome! Ahh what can I say about browsing? Just seeing all those shelves filled with books is honestly a big source of happiness for me (I also…umm… like to run my finger along the spines hehe)

Yes, because why not?

Now, this is something that probably would make me happy, that is if, you know I actually did lend my friends books. Practically none of them read anyway, that makes things easier for me lol. No.

Of course, yes! I am currently reading my first ever retelling (I think its my first) and I think I really like it!!

A yes to both, but more specifically to the second one. When a character has to deal with loss of loved ones and/or trauma and such, it gives me so much serotonin to know that they’re happy once the story gets over.

Yes to the first and no to the second. I’m kinda obsessed with Kanej fanarts on a daily basis. Also, umm I’m terrible at anything aesthetic so drawing fanart… nope. I wouldn’t want to do that to my favourite characters haha.

Omg yes definitely! It honestly gives me so much serotonin to reorganize my book shelf, or even to just stand there and stare at all the books in there! (also mildly related but I am convincing my parents to buy me a new bookshelf because my current one is close to bursting even though I hardly buy physical copies these days)

Duh!

…And we’re done for this post! Before you leave, do fill this feedback form for my blog if you haven’t already because the more of you who give me feedback, the better this blog can become! Here’s the link to the form – https://forms.gle/CYkBpZXUm4hsuJQm8

Which of these bookish stuff makes you happy? Do you… umm… smell your books? Let me know in the comments!

~ Rachel

ARC Review: The Helheim Princess by Tiana Warner || valkyries, winged mares and ancient relics

What if I told you that the entire cosmos was a tree?

In Norse mythology, Yggdrasil is the central, sacred tree around which the entire Nordic universe, that is to say the Nine Worlds exists. The inhabitants of these nine worlds are everyone from gods to valkyries to elves.

Yes, I have been doing my reading. In fact, I feel like I’ve entered my mythology-obsessed phase once again. But which was the book that got me interested in Norse mythology of all things?

The Helheim Princess (The Helheim Prophecy, #1)

Title: The Helheim Princess
Author: Tiana Warner
Genre: YA Fantasy, Mythology
Publishing Date: 4th January, 2022
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Add to Goodreads!

Synopsis:

A thrilling, intricate, and romantic #OwnVoices LGBTQ fantasy that builds on Norse mythology into a beautiful story all its own.
For as long as Sigrid could remember, she’s wanted to become a mighty, fearless valkyrie. But without a winged mare, she’s a mere stable hand, left wondering who her parents were and why she’s so different. So when the Eye shows her a vision where she’s leading a valkyrie charge on the legendary eight-legged horse Sleipnir, she grabs the possibility of this greater destiny with both hands, refusing to let go.
Too bad that the only one who can help her get there is Mariam, an enemy valkyrie who begrudgingly agrees to lead her to Helheim but who certainly can’t be trusted―even if she does make Sigrid more than a little flustered. As they cross the nine worlds, battling night elves, riding sea serpents, and hurtling into fire to learn the truth about Sigrid’s birthright, an unexpected but powerful bond forms.
As her feelings for Mariam deepen into something fiery and undeniable, Fate has other plans for Sigrid. What happens when the one thing you think you were meant to do might end the nine worlds? 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing this ARC in exchange of a sincere review. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

At first glance, the plot of The Helheim Princess won’t seem much different than a lot of YA fantasies out there. It follows an outcast, somehow different from all her peers, trying to find her place in a world that shuns her for being who she is.

But it takes a closer look to spot the uniqueness in this story. One thing I really liked was how realistically our main character, Sigrid, reacted to her environment. At times she doubted herself and her abilities because the other valkyries looked down on her, at others she was determined not to let the taunts sway her resolve and set out to prove that she was just as good as any valkyrie if not better.

Perhaps, being somewhat of a mythology nerd, I’m slightly biased, but the best thing about this book was how the author drew from the elements of Norse mythology. There was enough about it to make the reader comfortable, but not enough for the world building to be called an info dump. I can only imagine how hard this delicate balance is to achieve; I’ve seen books go wrong both ways of this scale.
I can assure you that I went in with nearly zero prior knowledge about Norse mythology, and emerged as someone who could save face if ever asked the basics.

Other exciting things about this book were fierce female characters, sapphic slow-burn, and of course our beloved quest-to-retrieve-a-stolen-relic trope! The animal lover in me deeply appreciated the bond between Sigrid and Hestur (her horse), the way their love for each other never faltered through the ups and downs of their journey.

I do have some misgivings though. The pacing felt slightly off, too slow in the beginning and then quite rushed in the second half. Then there was the ending. It all felt too easy somehow, and maybe that has something to do with the sequel, yet it felt that there was this rush to wrap it all up.
The twists and reveals were sort of predictable and I was not a fan of a particular toxic parent child relationship.

Overall, it was a quick and enjoyable read. I’d recommend The Helheim Princess to anyone looking for a mythology-driven epic fantasy with a dash of adventure!

Do you have The Helheim Princess on your tbr? Are you interested in reading mythology? Let me know in the comments!

~ Rachel

P.S. My Review Index page is now live! You can find all my reviews till date in an alphabetical manner there!

8 Diverse Books I Loved, And 8 That Are On My TBR!

Before I became a part of the bookish community, most of my reads were by straight white authors with likewise leads. Since then, I have become so much more aware due to lots of lovely people who promote diversity on their blogs/ booktube etc.

As an Asian myself, I understand how important it is for different cultures to be shown in books, and it is a different feeling altogether to feel represented. In the last couple of months, more than half of the books I’ve read recently are by Asian authors or have Asian characters so I am proud of how far I’ve come.

Diversity in books can mean a lot of things, but this list shall be focusing on books written by POC authors and/or having POC leads. In the first part of this post, I’ll be showcasing some of my favourite diverse reads with their highlights and in the second part, I’ll be listing diverse books which I’ve not read but are on my TBR!

I hope you have your Goodreads (or wherever you make your tbr list) open and ready, because we are starting now!

(the formatting is off in the Reader, kindly click here to read further!)

Cemetery Boys
💘 spirits (and a certain sweet but possessive, bad boy spirit)
💘 mexican culture
💘 themes of identity and acceptance
💘 fantasy with contemporary feel

The Girl Who Drank The Moon
💘 witchy
💘 whimsical, dreamy writing
💘 magic running wild
💘 multiple third person POVs

Where The Mountain Meets The Moon
💘 talking goldfishes and lion statues
💘 chinese folklore
💘 dragons!
💘 beautiful atmosphere and conclusion

We Hunt The Flame
💘 arabia – inspired fantasy
💘 atmospheric setting and brilliant world-building
💘 subtle found family with lots of banter
💘 morally grey characters

A Clash Of Steel
💘 set in imperial china
💘 pirates! and lost treasure!
💘 strong woman characters
💘 treasure island retelling

How We Fall Apart
💘 majority of the cast is Asian
💘 thrilling murder mystery
💘 set in an elite prep school
💘 secrets and rivalry and revenge

The Reader
💘 secret society
💘 a world where books are banned
💘 deep and meaningful writing
💘 pirate stories!

We Are Not Free
💘 set during WWII
💘 love, life and laughs amidst war
💘 14 POVs
💘 heart wrenching and impactful


Here are 8 diverse books I am yet to read, but will hopefully be picking up soon!

Amari and the Night Brothers (Supernatural Investigations, #1)
These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights, #1)
Jade Fire Gold
A Magic Steeped in Poison (The Book of Tea, #1)
The Gilded Ones (Deathless, #1)
Daughter of the Moon Goddess (The Celestial Kingdom Duology, #1)
Legendborn (The Legendborn Cycle #1)
The Bones of Ruin

Have you read any of these? Do you have any more diverse recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!

~ Rachel

September Wrap-Up // ft. more diverse reads and lots of blog hopping!

Would you look at that? My wrap-up post is actually on time for once! I can’t really promise to make this a habit though. What can I say, I like to be fashionably late. *flips hair in sass*

Speaking about fashion, did you know that the bearded vulture purposely dyes its feathers with red soil? Interestingly, it is the only bird that likes to play dress-up in this manner.

Yes, believe it or not, that was the weird bird fact for today.

Since the entire purpose of my monthly bird-fact intros is to spare me from writing long introductions to my wrap-ups, we get started right away!

I didn’t get much time to read this month – most of it was a whirlwind of exams and schoolwork – so I barely read anything for the first half of the month, it was only later that I found some time to read. The books were all 4 star-ish so I guess that’s a good thing?

The highlight of this month, however, is something else. Somehow, ALL my reads this month were written from first person point-of-view! Like, how? An utter coincidence, Nature playing a joke on this poor soul, or the bookish gods trying to convince me that not all first person narratives are boring? Whatever it may be, I am actually glad I gave (5!) books with 1st person POV a chance, because upto this point, I had ended up disliking nearly every book told from 1t person POV. However, I for once enjoyed reading the narratives of most of these 5 books, so happy realization to me!

Onto the books I read!

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, #1)
The Wolf's Curse

A Clash Of Steel by C.B. Lee (ARC)
Rating: ★★ (4 out of 5 stars)
This was a lovely diverse retelling of the classic favourite Treasure Island – with strong woman characters, pirates and treasure hunting! It was one of my most anticipated releases this year so I’m grateful I got the chance to be a part of the blog tour!

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Rating: ★★ (4 out of 5 stars)
A book that has gotten popular recently due to its recently released sequel, I buddy read The Inheritance Games with April for our hype-o-meter series of posts! While lacking in several aspects, I laud the author for creating such an intriguing atmospheric mystery!

The Wolf’s Curse by Jessica Vitalis (ARC)
Rating: ★★ (4 out of 5 stars)
A beautiful, lyrical, atmospheric middle grade fantasy centered around death and life, love and loss among lots of other meaningful themes, this book completely stole my heart.

We Are Not Free

How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao
Rating: ★★ (4 out of 5 stars)
This was an intriguing murder mystery set in an elite prep school where secrets don’t stay buried for long. A completely Asian main cast of characters, flashbacks and dark secrets – this book will keep you hooked.

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee
Rating: ★★½ (4.5 out of 5 stars)
An impactful story about 14 Japanese teenagers living in war-torn America during WWII, growing up amid discrimination and facing all odds to stay happy together – We Are Not Free was deep. Full review to come!

Most of my posts this month were basically reviews of some sort so yeah, compared to the plethora of creative posts I published last month, this month’s content was pretty stale. Still, some of the reviews are nicely written, with quotes and moodboards and hype-o-meters and what not.
Here are all my posts this month, check them out in case you missed them earlier!

  1. August Wrap-Up // the month of mostly mediocre reads, creative posts and blog redesign! : The month started with me wrapping up my reads, blogging etc in August. The weird bird fact of the month was something on albatrosses.

2. We Hunt The Flame vs the Hype-o-meter // Review : New favourite book incoming! This post was the second in a collab series with April, in which we determine whether or not a popular book is worth the hype! And my, We Hunt The Flame definitely was!!

3. Blogger Interview with Rachel! : Soo this was not a real post at all, it was a reblog of my interview with Riddhi from Whispering Stories! She asks me a set of questions related to everything from my blog to my future career and lots more!

4. Blog Tour: A Clash Of Steel by C.B. Lee (Review + Moodboard) || A diverse retelling set in imperial china ft. lost treasure and pirates! : I got selected for a blog tour of A Clash Of Steel, and got the chance to review an arc! Plus there’s a moodboard!!

5. We Hunt The Flame Quotes As Real Life Moments! : In my favorite post this month, I compare quotes from the Sands of Arawiya duology to moments in my life! Basically a sarcastic compilation of random real life moments!!

6. Blog Tour: Top 5 Reasons To Read The Wolf’s Curse by Jessica Vitalis || A poignant tale revolving around superstitions and death : As part of the book tour of the recently released The Wolf’s Curse, I list the top 5 resons you should read this lyrical middle grade!

7. The Inheritance Games vs the Hype-o-meter // Review : In the third installment of our hype-o-meter series, me and April review a book everyone seems to be reading lately! Was it worth the hype? Click to find out! (and click here to read April’s post!)

I am not kidding when I say I did a LOT of blog hopping this month and I’m proud of how many great new blogs and posts I discovered! Here’s a list of some posts I enjoyed reading in September!!

Maddie @Inking & Thinking reviews The Bones of Ruin!

Darcey @Read In The Clouds reviews Under The Whispering Door!

Aashi @Words On Fleek writes a hilarious song-review of City Of Bones!

Becky @Becky’s Book Blog reviews Among Thieves!

Sabrina @Wordy & Whimsical lists six ridiculous reading worries!

Laura @The Corner Of Laura lists six bad reasons to dnf a book!

Kaya @A Fictional Bookworm reviews an arc of Beasts Of Prey!

Malka @Paper Procrastinators gives tips for Netgalley newbies!

Anoushka @Dipped In Ink wrote a hilarious post on why bookworms can be dangerous!

J @Midnight Book Blog gives helpful tips for writing reviews!

Maddie @Inking And Thinking writes a discussion on why she follows book blogs!

Saima @Stories With Saima shares 6 things she has learnt after 6 months of blogging!

Bertie @Luminiosity Library reviews an ARC of Under The Whispering Door!

Laura @The Corner Of Laura does the fantasy tropes book tag!

Naemi @A Book Owl’s Corner reacts to five star reviews of books she hated!

Brianne @Peruse With Coffee shares her huge autumn tbr!

Cherry @Letters To The Lost lists the reasons why you should read We Hunt The Flame!

Sabrina @Wordy And Whimsical shares blog post ideas that she discarded!

Laura @The Corner Of Laura lists 6 features of a chill-out read!

Saima @Stories With Saima shares her spooky October tbr!

Siena @Booksophobia discusses unhauling books!

Rebecca @Bex the Bibliophile reviews A Dark And Hollow Star!

Alix @Alix Reads Books writes a discussion on annotating books!

Raji @Worlds Unlike Our Own recommends 7 thrilling reads to read during Halloween!

How was September for you? Which was your favourite read this month? Have you read any of the books I read? Let me know in the comments!!

~ Rachel

Blog Tour: Top 5 Reasons To Read The Wolf’s Curse by Jessica Vitalis || A poignant tale revolving around superstitions and death

Welcome to my stop for the blog tour of The Wolf’s Curse by Jessica Vitalis! Thank you to TBR And Beyond Tours for hosting this tour. Click on the banner below to see the entire tour schedule and visit other bloggers’ stops!

The Wolf's Curse

Title: The Wolf’s Curse

Author: Jessica Vitalis

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Publishing date: September 21st. 2021

Content Warnings: Grief, death

Synopsis:

“The path ahead isn’t easy. It will be filled with darkness and despair, and you will almost certainly regret your decision, just as I regret mine.”
~Narrator, The Wolf’s Curse

Twelve-year-old Gauge’s life has been cursed since the day he witnessed a Great White Wolf steal his grandpapá’s soul, preventing it from reaching the Sea-in-the-Sky and sailing into eternity. When the superstitious residents of Bouge-by-the-Sea accuse the boy of crying wolf, he joins forces with another orphan to prove his innocence. They navigate their shared grief in a journey that ultimately reveals life-changing truths about the wolf––and death. Narrated in a voice reminiscent of The Book Thief and Lemony Snicket, this fast-paced adventure is perfect for fans of literary fiction fantasy such as A Wish in the Dark and The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

Book Links: Goodreads || Amazon || Barnes & Noble || Book Depository || IndieBound || Indigo

The Narration. When I saw that the narration was pitched as a cross between The Book Thief and A Series Of Unfortunate Events, I was (naturally) a little skeptical. But believe me when I say the narration was the best thing about this book – it was just so good. Told from the POV of ‘the Wolf’, the distant third person narrative was definitely worthy of being compared to The Book Thief.

The Writing style. O-kay. I probably made a mistake by saying that the narration was the best thing in the book, because now I want to say that the writing style was the best. But wait, here me out. The writing style reminded me so much of my own (what with all the snarky comments in parentheses) that I fell in love with it (pfft way to be humble Rachel).

The themes of death, grief and acceptance. A lot of the story was about death – how our main character Gauge struggles to comes to terms with his grandfather’s death, how his friend Roux does the same after her father’s death and the Wolf after her daughter’s. Watching as each the trio navigates through their grief was an endearing yet enlightening experience, one that I strongly suggest you have. As a middle grade novel, I was impressed by how it didn’t shy away from these heavy topics.

It talks about dealing with false rumors and superstitions. The village in which Gauge lived – and naturally the village in which the entire story is set, had extremely superstitious and narrow minded residents, so one important message this book sends across was about confronting ancient practices and superstitions and trying to be more open-minded.

Unique storyline. As I mentioned above, it is certainly unique for a middle grade to deal with topics like death and loss and grief. The entire storyline was a perfect atmospheric mythological fantasy and the concept of it all intrigued me so much.

JESSICA VITALIS is a Columbia MBA-wielding writer. After leaving home at 16, Vitalis explored several careers before turning her talents to middle grade literature. She brings her experience growing up in a nontraditional childhood to her stories, exploring themes such as death and grief, domestic violence, and socio-economic disparities. With a mission to write entertaining and thought-provoking literature, she often includes magic and fantastical settings. As an active volunteer in the kidlit community, she’s also passionate about using her privilege to lift up other voices. In addition to volunteering with We Need Diverse Books and Pitch Wars, she founded Magic in the Middle, a series of free monthly recorded book talks, to help educators introduce young readers to new stories. She was recently named a 2021 Canada Council of the Arts Grant Recipient. An American expat, she now lives in Canada with her husband and two precocious daughters. She loves traveling, sailing and scuba diving, but when she’s at home, she can usually be found reading a book or changing the batteries in her heated socks.

Author Links: Website || Twitter || Instagram || Goodreads || Facebook

Do you have The Wolf’s Curse on your TBR? Which is your favourite book featuring wolves? Let me know in the comments!

~ Rachel

We Hunt The Flame Quotes As Real Life Moments!

I am officially obsessed with this duology. There, I said it.

Remember a stormy July evening when I wrote something along similar lines – Six Of Crows Quotes As Real Life Moments!, I believe it was called? Yes yes that does ring a bell. Since declarations of my love for a book shall now be decreed in the form of such posts, I am writing this post in honour of my newest favourites – the We Hunt The Flame duology.

For those of you are are wholly and truly confused so as to what exactly is going on, believe me, you’re not alone. I have no idea either. (what? did you think I was actually going to explain the concept of this entire thing? do my ideas even have a concept? ughh fine, since you insist.) Essentially, the gist is to relate some quotable lines from this duology to moments in my life, only, the contexts are ~slightly~ different. You’ll see what I mean in a moment. Onto the first quote!

“A thousand leagues and a thousand sands. For you, a thousand times I would defy the sun.”

Deen Ra’ad (aka the most sensitive and pure boy to ever exist on this earth. The world didn’t deserve him.)

(side note: this line makes me tear up every. single. time.)

This would be me to my Kindle. Do you know the pain of giving up a cozy reading spot in the balcony under the sun, and instead go to some dark, gloomy corner to read my Kindle just because I can’t read with sunlight falling on the screen? I have absolutely no wish to defy the sun but – ah, the things we do for books…

“He came here for one act alone: murder.”

Nasir Ghameq (aka the good assassin)

The ‘he’ in question being authors who, for no apparent reason at all, like to cause us readers literal pain by killing off characters we’ve come to love. (you get what I’m hinting at, eh Faizal?) Murderers.

“Knowledge without action is vanity, but action without knowledge is insanity.”

Benyamin (aka our sweet, arrogant immortal)

Truer words have never been spoken. This does lead my mind to very philosophical roads of thought… but, putting that on hold, how does this fit into my real life? Oh, what about when I get overexcited whenever I see a blog tour sign-up for one of my anticipated releases and happily go sign up for it – until later when I realize my assigned date is not far off, and I have to read a couple more arcs before that one. Insanity, right?

“Sometimes, when you live a life of captivity, trapped for so long, freedom becomes a thing to fear.”

Oh. My. Gosh. This is my exact life situation put very eloquently. I have stayed home due to lockdown for nearly two years now, and still have online schooling where I live, so I’ve got no idea how I’ll adapt to physically attending school again, once the restrictions are eased. Or going anywhere else, for that matter. Yes, I fear my freedom.

“Well,” Altair said with forced cheer. “It’s just the two of us again, and my, what a couple we make.” Nasir gifted him a look that could wither crops. “Keep up your endless yipping and only one of us will be left.”

Nasir & Altair (aka the best grumpy-sunshine duo ever!)

Back when I used to attend offline school, I always got extra cheery partners – be it a lab partner, a partner in a project, picnics etc. It was like Nature’s running joke on me. Anyway, while I used to studiously do whatever we’re supposed to do, my various partners would rather just chat with me, which annoyed me to no end and I’d usually end up snapping at them. In hindsight, that was rather harsh of me, but I couldn’t help it, you know? I’m a lot like Nasir than I ever thought.

“There were moments before moments, in which the world was framed in startling clarity, a defined before hurtling toward a horrible after. Moments in which the powerful were powerless, in which promises became failings.

This was such a moment.”

Okay, this is going to sound really silly, but the first thing that came to my mind after reading this was that moment on a roller coaster when you are right at the top and are just about to go down at top speed. There is that sudden feeling of thrill and fear, anticipation and tension. You know you’re about to drop but can’t do anything about it. This was such a moment.

“Wars could wage and swords could cut and arrows could pierce. None of them compared to the pain of a well-poised word.”

The word in question being the most dreaded word in the history of dreadful words – “rejected”. Few weeks back I requested my first ever Netgalley arcs, and a few days later, I get an e-mail. I am soo excited and close my eyes and then peek out of one eye – for what? To see that word?? Definitely not what I was expecting. I would have rather have a war waged in front of me, a sword cut of my head, an arrow pierced through my heart. Okay that’s gross and overdramatic but you get the point.

Huh. My life is so much similar to that of Zafira and Nasir, Altair and Benyamin, isn’t it? Anywayy that was all for today and the ulterior motive of this post was totally not to show-off these beautiful lines from the beautiful books.

Which is your favourite quote from the duology? Which are some quote-worthy moments in your life? Share with me in the comments!

And on a final note, my blog reached 200 followers a while back and I want to host a Q & A session in honour of that! Visit this post and leave me questions in the comments section if you haven’t! Oh, and don’t forget to fill this feedback form too –  https://forms.gle/CYkBpZXUm4hsuJQm8!!

~Rachel