[764]: Raze by Roan Parrish

I can always count on Roan Parrish to deliver stories with a lot of heat and plenty of heart. Raze, the third installment to her Riven series, is yet another testament to this fact.

Here, we get the story of Huey, the AA sponsor extraordinaire who owns and runs a bar of all places. Not only is he a former addict himself, but he managed to become an anchor for a few who continues to fight their demons day in and day out. Though at some days, he too, has his demons to fight. But through a rigorous routine and living a life free from emotional entanglements, Huey has managed the life of sobriety for the last ten years. Albeit, a lonely one at that.

Along come Felix; a guy who is about to shatter Huey’s carefully created world. Huey was not ready for Felix’ sunny disposition, but he couldn’t help but be drawn in regardless. These two souls didn’t know it at first, but they — in their own ways, needed each other’s help to break free from the doldrums of their existence.

I love how different they are. Huey’s quiet but imposing personality matches well with Felix’ happy-go-lucky friendliness. However, they have being nurturers in common. Felix has been the caretaker of his family – his mom and his sister. While Huey has taken care of anyone who needed the support during their weakest moments. Unfortunately, the years of being everyone’s pillar and support, and his predisposition to help others becomes yet another weakness he had to overcome.

Felix had so much insecurities that held him back. He just didn’t think he has a lot to offer to anyone. Once he was freed from his family responsibilities he was able to step back and reassess what he wants to do with his life. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy. The usual insecurities plagued him.

I’ve been enjoying this series a whole lot. I’m not always aware when they come out, but when I see it, it’s an instant download. I guess you can say that Roan Parrish is my go-to author for M/M romance.

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[763]: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

I’m not much of a fantasy reader. Most of the books I’ve picked up in this genre are truly an intensive labour of love. But when I decide to read one, it’s usually because I’ve been persuaded through word of mouth. This couldn’t be truer with The Poppy War.  It’s been a popular choice for fantasy and non-fantasy readers alike as of late.  The main attraction for me is that it features a heroine who came from the poorest and most ridiculed part of the country to become one of the greatest warrior that ever lived. But the road to get there was far from a walk in the park.

Much has been said about the novel’s brutality, and yes.  They’re of the stomach-churning variety. The author didn’t skimp on the shock and awe factor. The first half of this book focuses on Rin’s training at the Academy in the hands of the masters. Because she was nothing but an orphan from a poor province, no one considered her worthy to earn her place in the prestigious Academy or even worthy of a second look. But she sure showed them.  Armed with determination and an ability to soak up knowledge, Rin quickly rose up to the challenge and gained infamy.

In the Academy, she meets the Lore master Jiang who would teach her how to hone her power, call on the gods, and harness her untapped potential. The training was grueling to say the least. It was a series of testing and skirmishes meant to determine those who were not only merely good at what they do, but the best of the best to carry on defending the territories against the Federation.

Of course, it’d be remiss of me if I don’t mention the battles. My eyes tend to glaze over when I’m in the throes of reading such scenes. But this is one of those rare occasions when I couldn’t look away.  They were descriptive, visceral and not at all gratuitously violent. After all, who doesn’t want to see the evil faction fall in the hands of the least likely heroine? This would not be a book about war without deaths, blood and gore so expect those in spades.

I am not the most reliable reviewer of fantasy novels because I have a very small quantity of books in my arsenal. As well, I don’t seek them out. But even I can admit this was pretty kickass and I’m excited and terrified for the installment in equal measure.

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[762]: The Mister by E.L. James

The Mister by E.L James | April 16th, 2019

Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars

Le sigh.

I’m glad I didn’t buy a copy, to be honest. I borrowed the audio from my library. I didn’t have any expectations when I added it on my TBR. But I certainly didn’t expect to be bored out of my wits. Full disclosure, I got up to chapter 19 before I quit. Yes, I gave it the benefit of the doubt before I realize the novel would not improve, nor would the story go faster than the molasses-in-winter pace it had going on.

I don’t think it’s a big secret that my guilty pleasure is reading about billionaires and the virgins they attract into their lairs. Based on Ms. James’ earlier successful novels, she knows a thing or two about this trope. I think that’s why I had a hard time saying no, to be perfectly honest. However, this was a snoozefest. And the characters lack, well, characterizations – personalities, if I may.

I think she really tried, though. In this book, we have a photographer, Earl, DJ, and model to replace Christian Grey. His name is Maxim Trevelyan. So instead of a billionaire extraordinaire, our hero is someone that she tried to add some depth. Unfortunately, no amount of versatility could save our poor Maxim. He, like, Christian Grey only thinks about the woman in his periphery. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but at this point in my reading life, I just can’t be bothered. I need something more in my hero.

Let’s talk about our virgin. Oh man, she could’ve saved this travesty. She’s an Albanian who was a victim of human trafficking. But then her story got convoluted with the addition of an abusive fiancé. I wish she’d picked one character plotline and went with it. I mean, did she run away from the fiance? Or did she run away for a better life? It would’ve been interesting to see her plight as someone who got away from those who attempted to sell her. As it was, that point of her characterization was not fully explored.

As a reader, it’s frustrating when an author can’t find a way to remove themselves from the shadow of their previously successful novel. When Ms. James was a fanfiction writer, I was one of her legion of fans who thought she was the bees’ knees and looked forward to reading best selling novels she’d write. This is just her second endeavour, if you think about it. Here’s hoping she’ll get better at it. 🙂

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[761]: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Publication Date: April 13th, 2004

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last – inexorably – into evil. 

If you’ve read any book by this author, you’d know that she has the uncanny ability to make you feel like you’re a witness more than a reader. She pulls you into the story so viscerally that it’s as if you’re dragged from where you’re sitting right into the pages of the book – as a bystander to whatever fucked up scene is happening. Like a dream or a nightmare that you’ve become a part of.

Admittedly, I have no idea what “Bacchanal” murder is. Later on, I find out that it’s when you’re in a euphoric/mindless state that you have no clue what you’re doing. Nor you’ll remember what it is you did whilst in the moment. So it goes that six, privileged bored people set out into the woods, high, drunk, starved and completely off their fucking minds with the intention of just being in a rapturous state. What happens after was the murder of a farmer whose land they trespassed. The state of his body when found, however, will make even the vilest of serial killers flinch. Right away you can tell that the group is hiding a secret – the knowing looks and the jittery nerves that come off from them was palpable.

This is not your typical murder/mystery novel in a way that you’ll be hunting for the killers. You know who the killers are from the get-go but how the murder happened was the most riveting aspect of the book. Not only that, one of the characters decided to play the blackmail card and put everyone on their toes by having the murder hang over their heads even though exposing them would mean he himself would be exposed.

Our narrator, Richard Pappin is the unfortunate sob who got inadvertently involved just because he was a part of the elite Greek class with whom only these six people were enrolled. He was mesmerized and maybe a bit starstruck, so much so that he knowingly involved himself in the covering of the crime. He was a lonely figure; an outlier from Texas whose family could live with or without his presence. In this group, he suddenly found a camaraderie that’s been missing in his life. This was what made committing the cover-up an easy pill to swallow for him. For the first time in his life, he belonged somewhere.

There is no deeper meaning to the book. Classism or elitism ran rampant; as well, drug use and alcohol. Other than that, it’s just a murder story and the lengths people will go through to cover the crime. Even so far as committing another one. In the end, I supposed they got their comeuppance, but not in the way that criminals should’ve met theirs. Life, guilt, and fate probably had more to do with their karma more than anything. I read Ms. Tartt’s Goldfinch two years ago and to this day, I’m still in awe of her writing and story-telling chops. I say The Secret History is much less complicated than Goldfinch. But still no way less than stellar.

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[760]: In Another Time by Jillian Cantor

This book was a bit of a surprise. It’s romance and history set in the backdrop of Nazi Germany. But what made it surprising was the time travel elements — perhaps I should’ve warned you about spoilers. Oh well.

Max and Hanna met before Germany lost its mind and allowed Hitler to brainwash them into thinking the Aryan race was superior. I found this particular plot point to be interesting as it showed how the German people slowly fell into the narrative that Jews did not belong in Germany. As well, how some Jewish people were lulled into a complacency. They didn’t think one person could influence an entire nation to do his evil will. It most certainly is chilling to hear the propaganda being echoed down South in the present, only the supposed enemies this time are asylum seekers and illegal immigrants crossing the border. Not only that, it’s interesting to see how Hitler slowly and effectively made work of turning the media and his political rivals into the enemies of the people. Which is also what’s happening in the States. If we’re ever not to repeat history, I hope people are paying attention.

Anyway, believe it or not, this book is a historical romance between a German and a Jewish girl. I’m always ready for heartbreak when I pick up a book set in World War II. So business as usual when I decided to read this book. Like I mentioned previously, this has time travel elements. It reminded me of The Time Traveler’s Wife in such a way that Max kept disappearing on Hannah, so aside from the German-Jewish coupling a taboo at that time, their relationship was tenuous at best. I felt Hannah’s frustration because just when they were making headways in their relationship, Max disappears on her (through no choice of his own, mind you). Over the years, the pattern repeats. I felt like they were apart more than they were together.

Despite of that, I did enjoy this book. It was not pretty, nor as historically significant as The Tattooist of Auschwitz. But it still made my heart ached as any novels in this setting usually do.

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[759]: Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Ms. McQuiston’s debut novel comes in heavy with the greatest of praises that it was almost intimidating to pick up. All the reviews so far touched on how ridiculously sweet and fun it was. So because I am but a feeble human, I was unable to ignore the call. 

I mean, how could I? The story in itself combines romance and humour set in the backdrop of America’s quasi-current political climes. We have here the first son of the first woman POTUS initially involved in years of antagonistic rivalry with the English prince culminating in a disastrous scuffle at a well-publicized event. So when both countries’ PR teams decided the only way to clean up the mess was to have them do charitable public events, the two will have no choice but to address the long-standing feud. 

Enemies to lovers is one of my favourite romance tropes. But it only works if the author can pepper the dialogues with witty and funny banter. As well, the chemistry between characters also has to work. Red, White and Royal Blue, thankfully hits all the right notes. Alex and Henry couldn’t be more perfect than if I drew them in my mind and told Ms. McQuiston how I pictured them. 

This book also touched on some social issues plaguing the annals of American politics but only to a lighter degree. I was glad that being a bisexual wasn’t painted in a shade that most bible thumpers only knew how. It’s how I imagined the Americans could be: accepting as to have a woman president, whose ex-husband is a Mexican who is also a sitting Senator. 

Their kids, along with the vice president’s granddaughter, make up the White House Trio; the perfect magnet for young, impressionable voters. The media and the social media, for that matter, follow their lives like the celebrities that they are. When a romance between the first son and the prince of England came to light, their lives and global politics will never be the same. 

So comes the choice between finding their own happiness or potentially ruining the lives of their parents, and in Henry’s case, the throne. 

This book was absolutely amazing, addictive, and an absolute darling. I have read and re-read it many a times since it hit my Kindle. It reminded me of how I felt reading The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. It was just oh so good and my favourite kind of read for the simple reason that made me forget about the weariness of the day. 

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[758]: Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s latest novel is an avant-garde in its own right: ambitious, hardly pretentious, and a larger than life endeavor that realistically portrays the hard and fast life of rock and roll. Choosing the autobiographical format of a fictional band in the 70s, she successfully allowed her readers to immerse in the life of her characters. 

By choice, I am one of those readers who can’t stand destructive characters, and Daisy Jones was simply destruction, defined.  On the other side of the coin was Billy Dunne. A reformed drug and alcohol addict who nearly ruined his life and marriage if not for fatherhood. 

Reading this novel wasn’t easy.  Often times, it angered me. Not because the writing was comically bad, because, hell, this is TJR, after all. But it was the story itself that bothered me.  I’m an unforgiving reader when it comes to drug use in books. Call me prude, but I just can’t sit here and watch it unfold before my eyes. I get so bothered by characters that use drugs to escape, and use drugs as a means to explain the person they’ve become, their source of weakness and strength, their hell and oblivion. I just can’t.

My encounter with her novels has never been the stuff of legends. In fact, out of all her books (that I mostly own), I’ve only read two. And it’s because I found I have to psych myself up to reading them.  I know her novels are as real as it gets. Difficult relationships and equally difficult characters littered the pages of her books. Why I never bought a clue that Daisy Jones would be just as hard a character to decode escapes me.  

This novel reads like an episode of VH1 Behind the Music; an oral history of their lives, their music, their heartbreaks, successes, and failures. I could readily admit that throughout my life, I’ve never read something like Daisy Jones. It was ingenious and at times, I could easily ignore the stuff that bothered me. But since drugs are as regular as breathing for Daisy, it was a challenge. 

So Billy Dunne and Daisy Jones cross paths largely in part because of a mutual friend that saw the potential of what their combined talents could bring.  The dynamic was tenuous at best. Both are hardheaded and dedicated to their craft. Neither wanted to give in without drawing blood first, but underneath – a mutual respect. One of the story arcs that I also could not forgive is cheating. But in this instance, how I wish one of the characters in this book actually gave in and damned the consequences. 

In the end, I wish I could’ve loved Daisy as much as Daisy loved her drugs. Unfortunately, and as much this novel was amazingly written, I couldn’t forgive it for not giving me what I want. And it really sucks. 

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[757]: Vengeful by VE Schwab

My love affair with Blackout Poetry began with Victor Vale. To date, I think I’ve created over 100 of them. The majority were e-books because I couldn’t find it in me to destroy a physical book. This obsession only rivals that of my obsession with characters of supernatural powers. And the group of villains in this series is one that is worthy of the X-Men universe caliber. Victor Vale, in particular is one of my faves. He’s right up there with Thanos. The best kind of villains are the ones that make you question whether or not their hearts are in the right place. And therein lies the rub. I straddle the fine line between wordless wonder and seething contempt for their predisposition to play gods.

This sequel’s driving force is, simply put, revenge. Victor and Eli’s saga of trying to kill each other continues. Even if Eli has been imprisoned in a lab, being experimented on by an equally deranged scientist, his every waking hour is dedicated to getting out and finding Victor again so he can exact his revenge.

Victor, on the other hand, while living free, is sidled with a crippling illness from which he couldn’t find a cure. Reanimating his body apparently has a side effect. His bouts of blacking out was becoming increasingly frequent. His failure to find a cure means the body count for dead EOs are climbing. But in the periphery of his mind remains Eli, his arch nemesis. He knows he’s still out there, plotting the exact same thing.

Besides the usual suspects, we’ve got an EO with the ability to turn anyone or anything to dust with a single touch. Her evolution from a doting housewife to a mafia godfather to becoming one of the most feared EO started when her own husband tried to burn her alive. Revenge is best served in a bowlful of dust. And that’s exactly what Marcella did to all those who wronged her.

Her path of destruction crosses with two other EOs whose abilities will help her take over the city. One is a shape shifter; the other, a shield. In a short time, Marcella and her little crew of menace became notoriously famous and public enemy number one. But there’s one organization who will exploit an alliance just for the purpose of catching Victor Vale and his cohorts.

As per usual, Ms. Schwab developed a crew of complex and highly interesting characters. They’re the ones that forces a reader to examine their stance on the whole good vs. bad thing and be conflicted on whether their weaknesses are their strengths and vice versa. Eli remain staunched in his belief that the EOs that he helped create are an abomination that the world needs eradication. In the meantime, Victor is ridding them one by one but for mostly selfish reasons. So while I loved, loved Victor in the first book, he was purely suspect in this one.

Marcella was a character that I loved and hated in equal measure. While I applaud the addition of an avenging woman in this novel, I didn’t like how quickly she let power get to her head. But boy, was she fun to watch. I enjoyed seeing her turn her enemies into dust and plot to take over the city of Merit. Though her methods were hella dubious, in my opinion.

I loved this sequel and I hope there’ll be more. I loved the familial dynamics between Victor, Sydney, and Mitch. It’s about belonging and finding a place to exist that one can accept – whether that be with others or on your own.

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[756]: Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare

Clocking in at 880 pages, Queen of Air and Darkness was a beast of a book. But then again, Ms. Clare has been putting out books of this size for the last few years. And yet, as daunting as it was, fans who are heavily vested in this series will find it as addictive as her other books; as easily read, and just as fantastic as all her other books in this world have been.

I started reading this during my holiday break as I’d planned. Aided with an audiobook, it still took me two weeks to finish this monster. And yes, it was a fantastic installment. One that was filled with heartbreak, adventure, amazing characters, and worlds beyond our wild imaginings.

the nitty gritty

Here, we witness the desperation the Blackthorn’s felt since losing one of their own. And one sibling in particular, who was willing to do whatever it takes to bring her back. Even indulging in dark magic. In the meantime, warlocks are getting sicker and sicker, Julian and Emma are dealing with the parabatais’-being-in-love curse, Jace and Clary are lost somewhere in fairy land, and the father and daughter menace known as Horace and Zara, respectively (I can’t, for the life of me remember their last name.) are about to get what they were after all this time: control of Shadowhunters, dissolution of the peace accord, and finally, finally getting rid of the downworlders. We are also introduced to a world we’ve never seen before. An alternate world where Sebastian roams free and wreaking death and destruction to the shadowhunters, downworlders, and humans alike.

the kids are alright

It was hard to read this book and not feel like your heart is being ripped into pieces. The Blackthorns had lost so much and suffered too many heartbreaks for such a young bunch. But at the end of the day, they have each other and their love shone through with every choices and sacrifices they make.

in other words

Look, this book is hard to condense in a 3-400 word review – which is my limit when I write a review, but just know that if you’re a fan, you’ll be clamouring for the next installment. There are so many things to look forward to, and without spoiling anything, there’s hopefully going to be an epic wedding in the next book. A certain prophecy not happening, and us fans getting twice the fun with Jace Herondale. I don’t know how many books are coming, but man, it’s going to be a painful wait.

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[755]: Darius the Great is not Okay by Adib Khorram

First time author, Adib Khorram takes his readers to the sights, sounds, and people of Iran. A country, in my own opinion that has had a reputation as a dangerous territory. 

After reading this book however, I was left awestruck by its wild beauty, rich culture, historic and picturesque architecture. 

In this book, we meet Darius, a product of a mixed-race marriage who can’t seem to find his purchase in the world in which he grew up. His dad might be as White as they come, but his features are pure Persian. He’s an awkward, quiet teenager who finds himself a target among his peers. So when his parents announced that his family was headed to Iran for three weeks, he welcomed the opportunity to find refuge from his life in America. 

In Iran, he’d hoped to garner some closeness to his grandparents, especially his grandfather whose illness had taken for the worse. He also wanted to learn about his mom’s Motherland, her people, their relatives, and soak up traditions and culture. In the hopes that he’d learn to understand why he’s never felt comfortable in his own person and why he’ll always feel like the outsider no matter where he is. 

He finds more than he bargained for in Iran. He, too, was taken in by the beauty of the country; the warmth and acceptance of his people, and most of all, a step towards understanding the only thing he seemed to have in common with his father: depression. Both take medications in precise synchronicity. Darius, for the most part, gets along with his dad. They have the same affinity for Star Trek. And yet, they seemed miles apart when it matters. 

Darius has never been able to get along with his peers. So finding friendship in the least likely places confounded him the most. 

The thing is, I never had a friend like Sohrab before. One who understood me without even trying. Who knew what it was like to be stuck on the outside because of one little thing that set you apart.


This book is about belonging. It’s about finding your place in the world no matter where you are. It’s being comfortable in your true self, and understanding that you’ll only be happy once you accept that you can never be what people tell you who you should be. 

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