Posted in Books

Book Review: We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Series: Sands of Arawiya #1

Published: May 14, 2019

Rating: ★★★☆☆


People lived because she killed. People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. Both Zafira and Nasir are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya–but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds–and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

After almost two years of owning this book, I’ve FINALLY finished it! I found We Hunt the Flame to be enjoyable, if a little slow at times. The first third of the book is largely spent on worldbuilding, which was necessary for background but was a bit of slog to get through.

The two main characters of Nasir and Zafira were decently fleshed out, and I’m definitely rooting for them to get together as a couple. I similarly loved Altair, the general for the Sultan and Nasir’s sort-of-friend and hope there is more of him in the following book! All the other supporting characters were somewhat shallow to me though. There was an attempt at adding a bit of backstory to Kifah, a character who joins the band later on, but it came across as rushed and I never felt connected to her character.

There were some species and events, such as the Kaftar hyena-shifters, that seemed kind of just thrown in the story. I remember these creatures showed up again at the end after like three pages of appearance earlier in the novel, and I had to google the word to remember who they were. Admittedly, these may be more common creatures to those familiar with Arabic myths, but I had no idea what they were before this book.

Overall I enjoyed this book, and will be picking up the sequel to see what happens to the main characters (and what fate befall Arawiya overall)!

Posted in Books

Book Review: A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth

A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth

Series: A Dark and Hollow Star #2

Published: March 3, 2021

Rating: ★★★★★


The “ironborn” half-fae outcast of her royal fae family.
A tempestuous Fury, exiled to earth from the Immortal Realm and hellbent on revenge.
A dutiful fae prince, determined to earn his place on the throne.
The prince’s brooding guardian, burdened with a terrible secret.

For centuries, the Eight Courts of Folk have lived among us, concealed by magic and bound by law to do no harm to humans. This arrangement has long kept peace in the Courts—until a series of gruesome and ritualistic murders rocks the city of Toronto and threatens to expose faeries to the human world.

Four queer teens, each who hold a key piece of the truth behind these murders, must form a tenuous alliance in their effort to track down the mysterious killer behind these crimes. If they fail, they risk the destruction of the faerie and human worlds alike. If that’s not bad enough, there’s a war brewing between the Mortal and Immortal Realms, and one of these teens is destined to tip the scales. The only question is: which way?

Wish them luck. They’re going to need it.

I’m so grateful that I was able to get this book through my Illumicrate subscription. Honestly, it wasn’t even on my radar until it was described in the theme reveal for February, and I wasn’t immediately in love with the cover which looks SO MUCH BETTER AND AMAZING in person. Boy, would I have been missing out.

This is the most fun that I’ve had reading a book in ages. Based on this book alone, I think this series has the potential to be one of my favorites (of all time)! There are so many nerdy references and asides throughout that had me snorting in laughter. And the romantic angst between the characters!

A Dark and Hollow Star switches between the POV’s of four main characters – Nausicaa, Arlo, Aurelian, and Vehan. I’m normally not a fan of multiple POV’s in a book, but for some reason this one just worked for me. Maybe it’s because I found the voices to be unique enough to individually differentiate – even with third person POV. Maybe it’s because I was so invested in how the characters interacted with each other that switching between them didn’t throw me off my stride too much. The characters (with the exception of 300 year old Nos) are mainly late teens/early twenties, which makes this a bit of a YA/New Adult crossover and it does have some darker themes.

One of the focuses of this book – and I’m guessing future installments in the series – is the prejudice against people with low or no magic, as well as against different types of faeries. Arlo is trying to prove to the high council of fae that she has worth, even though her magic is currently low to non-existent. This is largely unresolved and I can see Arlo coming into her own power and advocating for others being a major focus in the future.

My favorite part of everything was the romance. There are multiple couples that I’m shipping, and such sweet, sweet, slow burn that had me squealing and gasping and drawing little hearts and exclamation points on page flags.

The next installment, A Cruel and Fated Light, is already on my most anticipated releases of next year, and I can’t wait to read about Nos and Arlo and Vehan and Aurelian. (But seriously, that title has me a little worried for my babies.) I need answers and for everyone to live and be happy and safe forever!!!

Posted in lifestyle

Archer and Olive Quarterly Subscription Unboxing: March 2021

I’ve been eyeing Archer and Olive notebooks for a while, and have finally gotten my hands on some! Archer and Olive is a small female-owned business that uses 100% vegan materials and prides themselves on environmentally friendly packing. Their journals have been pretty popular in the bujo/bullet journal community because the thickness of the pages. They are 160gsm which is great for preventing ghosting and allowing for the use of different kinds of media, like watercolor and paint, which other popular journal brands (like Leuchtturm) typically can’t handle.

I’ve been using at Leuchtturm for the last few years. I really like that it has numbered pages and it handles fountain pen ink pretty well, but I haven’t been using all the pages before the end of the year. I’ve also been wanting to branch out lately and use paints more, which Leuchtturm’s thinner pages can’t really handle.

When I saw that the March quarterly subscription box from Archer and Olive was available, I had to grab it! I saw unboxings of the December box last year and had major FOMO. The last box was their first ever, and it ended up selling out in a day! Each box is full of subscription exclusive items that won’t appear anywhere else in their store, and is priced at $70 plus shipping (which as a US resident, was $6 for me). As is the case with my last new to me subscription box unboxing, I’ll be providing approximate retail value for each item below to see if I got my money’s worth!

The Unboxing

The items arrived in this gorgeous baby blue box. Everything was packed so beautifully, with each journal in their own protective case. It was like opening multiple presents all at once!

The items included:

  • A4 size dot grid notebook size (Brand new item! Estimated Retail: $36)
  • A4 size lined notebook (Brand new item! Estimated Retail: $36)
  • Canvas screen-printed tote bag (with pen loops built-in) (Brand new item! Estimated retail: $10)
  • Traveler’s size (top) spiral bound sketchbook (Brand new item! Estimated Retail: $32)
  • Four packs of sticker stickers (Retail: $17)
  • Sheet of silicone stamps (Estimated Retail: $5)
  • Two ink pads (black and gold) (Estimated Retail: $4)
  • Arylic blocks (large and small) (Estimated Retail: $5)
  • Five acrylograph pens (Retail: $17.50)

Estimated Box Value: $162 (That’s over twice the subscription cost!)

Overall, if you’re looking for bang for your buck from retail price, this box is a total steal! You get your moneys worth with the two notebooks alone, and everything else is pretty much a bonus.

I really love stamping, so I’m excited about the stamps that were included. There are some classic shapes that I’ve been missing from my collection that I can see getting a lot of use. I haven’t tested out the stamp pad quality yet (I typically like to use VersaMagic Drops which are chalk based and prevent bleeding on most paper), but really like that they included two colors. I don’t have a gold ink, so I’m happy to add it to my collection.

My favorite notebook of the three has to be the red compass lined notebook. I already have grand plans for this notebook….once I get a little better at painting and writing. (And therein lies my problem of never starting something if I’m worried it won’t be good enough!)

Would highly recommend this subscription and will definitely be continuing on – even though I’m worried about journal saturation after a few shipments. I guess that’s one of the benefits of a quarterly! Plus, I can always re-gift some surplus ones to my other journal-inclined friends.

Posted in Books

Book Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

Published: October 6, 2020

Rating: ★★★★☆


A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

I had a bit of trouble getting into this one. It wasn’t until about a third of the way through, when Henry’s own mystery started to unravel, that I became invested. This early lack of interest is what brought my review down, because I really enjoyed the rest.

Schwab has such great control of her prose, and there are some very beautiful phrases throughout this novel. You can tell every word was chosen carefully, and a lot of love and thought and hope was put into Addie and Henry and Luc and their story.

I’m not sure where I got the idea, but I thought this book involved more of a love story between Addie and “the devil.” It is more of a minor side story that is expanded upon in about 100 pages, which I (as a huge romantic and lover of dark boy love interests) was a tad disappointed about.

The ending made my heart ache and left me with hope for Addie’s future adventures and life.

Posted in Books

Book Review: A Touch of Ruin by Scarlett St. Clair

A Touch of Ruin by Scarlett St. Clair

Series: Hades & Persephone #2

Published: April 22, 2020

Rating: ★★★☆☆


Click HERE for my review of Book 1!

Persephone’s relationship with Hades has gone public and the resulting media storm disrupts her normal life and threatens to expose her as the Goddess of Spring.

Hades, God of the Dead, is burdened by a hellish past that everyone’s eager to expose in an effort to warn Persephone away.

Things only get worse when a horrible tragedy leaves Persephone’s heart in ruin and Hades refusing to help. Desperate, she takes matters into her own hands, striking bargains with severe consequences.

Faced with a side of Hades she never knew and crushing loss, Persephone wonders if she can truly become Hades’ queen.

This book contains some heavy material including suicide, torture, and kidnapping.

On the whole I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the first book, although it was still enjoyable.

I felt like Persephone acted kind of like a spoiled brat through a large part of this, although I definitely did see some growth towards the end which I hope is carried over into the next few books. If she continues to act like a spoiled child, I’m gonna have to give up on her. I truly don’t understand why Hades stuck with her through her constant acts of bratty rebellion which negatively affected pretty much everyone in her life.

There are some pretty heavy subjects in this one – it dives more into the Lord of the Dead aspect of Hades’ powers, and the limitations of them as well. Even though she was childish, Persephone did go through some traumatic events.

Some of the conflict felt glossed over or too easily resolved by the powers that be. One of the main issues in this book was the lack of communication between characters leading to really big messes that could’ve easily been avoided with some transparency.

I will be reading the next book in the series because this is the exact type of trashy romance that I love. I’m just hoping that the heroine’s experiences in this one mean she will be more of a communicator and less of a diva. 

Posted in Uncategorized

Book Review: The Gift by Julie Garwood

The Gift by Julie Garwood

Series: Crown’s Spies #3

Published: 1991

Rating: ★★☆☆☆


Sara Winchester has joyfully anticipated the day when her husband Nathan, Marquess of St. James, will return to claim her heart at last. Charmingly innocent, she dismisses the ancient feud that divides Nathan’s family from her own, the feud that their marriage was supposed to settle.

But when he finally returns, Nathan is not the prince charming Sara had imagined. The man before her now is perplexing, arrogant and powerfully handsome—a notorious pirate whose touch arouses her to the wildest, deepest pleasures of love.

Nathan has never bared his soul to any woman, but he’s soon utterly beguiled and exasperated by Sara’s sweet, defiant ways. Aboard his ship, The Seahawk, she is brave, imperious and determined to win his heart completely. But upon their return to England, Sara’s love will be sorely tested as a vile conspiracy threatens to tear them apart…

I’ll give this book some leeway for being written in the early 90’s, but almost all of these sex/romance scenes were SUPER rapey. The hero forcing the heroine to “calm down” by shoving his tongue down her throat, holding her down because she said she didn’t want to, etc. I was really disappointed because I enjoyed the only other book I’ve read by Garwood, The Secret.

Other than those horrible scenes, the heroine is an absolute complete ditz whose steadfast naïveté in the face of so many situations made me want to shut the book and DNF many times. I might’ve saved myself some frustration if I had done that, but I wanted to finish it for Trope-ical readathon.

The hero was a stubborn and intelligent man who is attempting to reform himself after living as a pirate for a few years. I haven’t read the other books in the series so I’m assuming there was more backstory in those, but I wish there was some more info about his past scars because they did have some significance in his developing feelings for Sara. Which, by the way, not entirely sure how that happened because I don’t think I could stand to be in the same area with her for more than a few days, let alone a few weeks at sea.

I think I’ll be screening Garwood’s work a little more before I blindly pick it up next time.

Posted in Books, Reading Challenges

Trope-ical Readathon Wrap-Up

Now that the end of March is concluding, it’s time for the wrap-up of Trope-ical Readathon! This was my first time participating in the readathon, and while I enjoyed it, I’m not sure I’ll do it again because I felt unnecessarily anxious due to the team element. I was fervently aware throughout the month of my point-based contribution to the team, which took a bit of the fun away from reading for me. (I am the way I am, I guess. Thanks, anxiety!)

  1. Blast from the Past: The Gift by Julie Garwood
  2. Coming of Age: A Touch of Ruin by Scarlett St. Clair
  3. : We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
  4. Absent/Dead Parent: Witness in Death by J. D. Robb
  5. Secret World: A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth
  6. First Contact: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab (I stretched this prompt a bit to encompass the first contact of Addie with a human who remembered her.)

In addition to these books, I also finished up Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell and Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim, although I didn’t count them for prompts because I was over halfway through them both when the readathon started.

My favorite book of the month was A Dark and Hollow Star! I had so much fun reading it, and if you’re interested in learning more I suggest checking it out!

How was your reading for the month of March?

Posted in Books

Book Review: Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

Published: February 2, 2021

Rating: ★★★★★


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

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

I originally was thinking of rating this book 4 stars because the story wasn’t as gripping as I normally like, but since putting it down I haven’t been able to stop thinking about these characters! Still would consider this probably a 4.5 because there were some aspects not perfect in the story. I definitely would recommend this more for people who enjoy loveable characters and slow-burn romance rather than plot-driven, rich sci-fi based stories.

Jainan was the true star of this story, as his past is slowly uncovered and his relationship with Kiem begins to bloom. I feel like his backstory was more fleshed out, and I felt the most connected to him. While Kiem was a very caring softball who I loved in his own right, I don’t think we learned anything of substance about him other than he was a reformed troublemaker. We only get glancing mentions of some of the hijinks he used to get up to, and not a ton of other traits than he is an outgoing people person who like to keep up with dartcar race results.

While this is marketed as a sci-fi (and there are certainly lots of sci-fi aspects with hovering cars, space mining, and intergalactic resolution treaties), I felt like it was very much just the tip of the iceberg. The world the characters inhabit is often referred to as a backwater portion of the galaxy that would be invaded the moment the treaty was broken, but we only get a one person glimpse at the technology and events going on elsewhere. I felt like this was necessary for this kind of one-off sci-fi book as many aspects of this “backwater” galaxy are more similar to our own, but I still was left wanting to know more about the wider universe. The majority of the conflict in this book is relating to the politics within the individual star system, which could be a little slow at times, especially because the majority happens on one planet and one space station.

I really enjoyed this romantic romp with a sci-fi background. It was full of loveable characters and lots of political peril. Winter’s Orbit is perfect for people who like slow exploration of relationships and uncovering some political machinations.

Posted in Books, lifestyle

Illumicrate Unboxing: February 2021

I’ve been getting Illumicrate for 5 months now, and have yet to be disappointed in a box. The book picks and the customizations done are by far my favorite of any book box on the market (other than Goldsboro’s Sci-Fi Fantasy Fellowship, which I consider a single-book subscription service). With the conversion from GBP to USD, the box (with shipping) costs around $62 from me. Of that cost, around $15 is shipping, which is unfortunate but I’m willing to pay it for the book. Illumicrate does offer a book only option, but the shipping for just the book is about the same as the shipping for the entire box, so the price difference only ends up being around $13.

What was in the box:

  • A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth, signed by the author with pinkish purply edges (Retail: $20)
  • Pin inspired by the book (Retail: $11)
  • Wooden laser-engraved coaster inspired by Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (Retail Estimate: $5)
  • Crescent City umbrella inspired by House of Earth and Blood (Retail estimate: $6)
  • Ceramic Dish inspired by The Gilded Wolves (Retail Estimate: $8)
  • Foiled print with art from The Falconer (Retail Estimate: $5)
  • Hard case card holder inspired by The City We Became (Retail Estimate: $9)

Total Estimated retail price of items: $64

Overall, I am breaking about even on the total price I paid for this box. If you’re based in the UK, you get even more of a deal on these items! While I’m not a huge fan of all the fandoms represented in the box, they are all things that I can use without being invested in the stories, which is one of the reasons I prefer Illumicrate over other boxes.

The book is also absolutely STUNNING. I wasn’t a huge fan of the cover art when I saw it online, but it is absolutely gorgeous in person. It’s hard to capture in pictures, but the pink/purple edges match the wings of the character on the cover, as well as the foiled title on the hard case. These special editions are what make the entire box worth it to me – they are almost always customized with either unique cover art, sprayed /stenciled edges, additional foiling on the hard case, or some combination of the three. They also tend to hold their value in the resale market due to their exclusivity.