Book Spotlight: The Archer by Shruti Swamy

Special thanks to Algonquin Books for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review 😊

Hello, friends! I’m happy to shine a spotlight today on The Archer by Shruti Swamy.

“This is a singular work, a story of a dancer, and of a hungry self seated at the table of womanness and desire and art, told with unparalleled originality and elegance. Swamy writes with a thrilling clarity of vision that wakes the sleepwalker right into joyful consciousness. Every word is intimate, honest, ecstatic—utterly alive. I will hold this novel close, and return to it for companionship, for instruction, and for pure pleasure. I love and treasure this book.”

—Meng Jin, author of Little Gods

Goodreads: The Archer
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publish Date: 07 September 2021
Genre: Literary Cultural Fiction

As a child, Vidya exists to serve her family, watch over her younger brother, and make sense of a motherless world. One day she catches sight of a class where the students are learning Kathak, a precise, dazzling form of dance that requires the utmost discipline and focus. Kathak quickly becomes the organizing principle of Vidya’s life, even as she leaves home for college, falls in love with her best friend, and battles demands on her time, her future, and her body. Can Vidya give herself over to her art and also be a wife in Bombay’s carefully delineated society? Can she shed the legacy of her own imperfect, unknowable mother? Must she, herself, also become a mother?

Intensely lyrical and deeply sensual, with writing as rhythmically mesmerizing as Kathak itself, The Archer is about the transformative power of art and the possibilities that love can open when we’re ready.

Continue reading “Book Spotlight: The Archer by Shruti Swamy”

ARC Review: When Sparks Fly by Helena Hunting

Special thanks to Sara at St. Martin’s Press for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: When Sparks Fly
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publish Date: 21 September 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(2.5 pandas)

Running the Spark House, a hotel/event space that has been in her family for years, has been Avery Spark’s lifelong dream. After years of working hard and making personal sacrifices, Avery and her two younger sisters have turned the Spark House into the premier destination in Colorado Springs. Avery is living her best life—she works with her sisters and loves every minute of it, she has a great group of friends, and she lives in a fantastic condo with her best friend Declan. She might not have any love in her life, but she’s happy.

But everything comes to a screeching halt when Avery is in a car accident, leaving her immobile for weeks. After nearly losing Avery, Declan insists that he will be the one to take care of her while she recovers. However, as Declan becomes Avery’s caretaker, lines begin to blur.

Avery and Declan have been best friends since college and always had an attraction to one another, but when she ended up dating his best friend, Sam, they successfully stamped down any feelings they may have ever had for one another. Now, as Declan and Avery spend more time together, they each begin to wonder what would’ve happened if she’d dated him instead of Sam. What starts as a friend helping out another friend turns into foreplay and, before they realize it, they recognize how deeply they care for one another. But when things get serious their past threatens to destroy everything they have built.

TL;DR: Sadly, sparks didn’t exactly fly for me with this book. There were definitely some cute fluffy moments between Avery and Declan and I enjoyed reading about the Avery and her sisters running Spark House, plus I appreciated that Hunt emphasised the importance of seeking mental health support by seeing a therapist. Ultimately though, the writing felt stilted and repetitive, and I was unable to really connect with the characters or feel invested in their romance. I’m in the minority though but it was still a quick and easy read and would be a good palate cleanser between genres.

Continue reading “ARC Review: When Sparks Fly by Helena Hunting”

Book Review: Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Goodreads: Before the Coffee Gets Cold
Publisher: Picador
Published: 19 September 2019
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Magical Realism

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

What would you change if you could go back in time?

In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.

In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer’s, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.

But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold…

TL;DR: A well-paced character driven story where the magical fits the mundane to perfection! Before the Coffee Gets Cold asks us if you would travel to the past knowing nothing would change in the present and if you could, who would you choose to meet, maybe for one last time? The four stories we follow wonderfully intertwine to create one moving story about love, loss, grief and hope. This was a short and quick read that packed quite an emotional punch and unsurprisingly, as a mood reader, made me teary eyed! It was equally heartbreaking and heartwarming and I would definitely recommend it.

Continue reading “Book Review: Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi”

ARC Review: Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

Special thanks to NetGalley and Tor Books for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This was a buddy read with the wonderful Leslie @ Books are the New Black and I’m so glad we read it together! We sped through the book in less than two days and we both laughed, cried and surprisingly, also had the same thoughts and feelings about the ending! Definitely a fun one to read together 😊


Goodreads: Under the Whispering Door
Publisher: Tor Books
Publish Date: 21 September 2021
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Light Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, this absorbing tale of grief and hope is told with TJ Klune’s signature warmth, humor, and extraordinary empathy. 

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Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.

TL;DR: TJ Klune has such a knack for writing books that are cosy and feel like warm hugs while also being able to shatter your feelings, and this book delivered all of that in spades! I had some long and loud laughs but it also tore at my feelings and had me ugly crying for… a good chunk of that ending. Safe to say, this was quite the emotional journey but I honestly didn’t expect it’d be anything different! If you enjoy Klune’s charming writing, witty humour, and endearing characters, then I have no doubt that you will enjoy this book. I want more of Hugo, Wallace, Mei, Nelson, Apollo and Charon’s Crossing Tea and Treats, please!

CW/TW: Death of a parent, death of a child, suicide, murder (stabbing), car accident


“We live and we breathe. We die, and we still feel like breathing. It’s not always the big deaths either. There are little deaths, because that’s what grief is.”

Considering that The House in the Cerulean Sea was my favourite read of 2020, I went into this book with fairly high expectations and anticipation. This was a real slow-burn of a story but with it’s simple and compelling writing, it was still a relatively quick and easy read. There were moments when the writing did more “telling” than “showing”, which made it feel a bit clunky and detached at times, but the story is infused with TJ Klune’s witty and humorous charm, and I loved it!

Fitting with the pace, I felt this was more of a ‘quiet’ story—it’s not flashy but it’s full of heart and it creeps up on you with a grounding sort of comfort. I wouldn’t necessarily say this was uplifting either but it does explore worthwhile topics like death, loss and grief, and poses questions such as what does it mean to be alive, what constitutes a well-lived/fulfilled life and how to cope with death. The story has platitudes aplenty about living your best life, being kind to others and being the best person that you can be, and I have to admit that there was little subtlety in the telling. But while I don’t think it introduced anything new or groundbreaking to the discussion I personally had no problem with that and still managed to thoroughly enjoy the story for the cheesiness it does bring.

“She brightened. “Oh, and I’m your Reaper, here to take you where you belong.” And then, as if the moment wasn’t strange enough, she made jazz hands. ‘Ta da.'”

What made my enjoyment of this story so full however was the amazing cast of characters that Klune brings to life. They are quirky and endearing and they wormed their way into my heart so quickly! I took some notes while reading and 90% of them were variations of: “OMG STAHP I LOVE THESE CHARACTERS SO MUCH!!!” (I’m not even kidding lol.) The found family trope is one of my all-time favourites and there is big found family energy in this that makes it so easy to feel invested in these characters and their stories. Wallace, Hugo, Mei, Nelson and the adorkably clumsy ghost-doggo, Apollo, tugged so hard on my emotional strings. They had me laughing and crying and all I wanted was to hang out at the tea shop and be friends with them.

“We’re here to make sure they see that life isn’t always about living. There are many parts to it, and that it continues on, even after death. It’s beautiful, even when it hurts.”

Hugo was such a soft, empathetic cinnamon roll who lived for tea and to do his best to help those who’ve passed to cross over. Mei is a reaper who brings souls to Hugo and I loved her so much from the moment we meet her. She’s loud and hilarious and so full of life that it just beams off the pages! Much like Wallace, Nelson and Apollo are ghosts and semi-permanent residents of Charon’s Crossing Tea and Treats. Nelson is Hugo’s grandfather and I loved this man so freaking much! He was fun-loving, mischievous and delightfully cheeky, as many endearing grandfatherly characters are. Being so big-hearted, generous and patient made all the characters complete opposites of Wallace, but in finding himself surrounded by them, it was great to see him come to the realisation that being kind and selfless reaps greater rewards than being cold and cruel, and that perhaps being surrounded by love and warmth is better than having everything and still, nothing. The romance between Wallace and Hugo was also heart-achingly sweet. It’s a slow burn that grows steadily from wary strangers, to steady friendship and builds up to a great love. Their inability to interact normally created a feeling of such bittersweet longing and oh, my. They were easy to ship!

“If this is a way station, if this is just one stop on a journey, you’re the better part of it.”

Although the plot was predictable and it was clear where the story was heading, I was still a little disappointed that it ended the way it did. I know a lot of people will love it and I probably would’ve too had I read this a few years ago because who doesn’t want that well-rounded happy ever after? However, I felt that it was just too neat and simple (idealistic even?) and in a way I felt that it even took away some of the story’s power. But did it stop me from being completely emotionally devastated? No. Was I still quietly ugly crying into my pillow at 2AM and wondering how I could make it all hurt less? Yes! Did it still leave me wanting moremoremore of these characters and other stories from the Charon’s Crossing Tea and Treats shop? Abso-freaking-lutely!

Have you read Under the Whispering Door or is it on your TBR?

ARC Review: Revenge of the Sluts by Natalie Walton

Special thanks to NetGalley and Wattpad Books for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: Revenge of the Sluts
Publisher: Wattpad Books
Publish Date: 02 February 2021
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Mystery

Panda Rating:

(3 pandas)

Double standards are about to get singled out.

In this stunning debut, author Natalie Walton tackles privacy and relationships in the digital age.

As a lead reporter for The Warrior Weekly, Eden has covered her fair share of stories at St. Joseph’s High School. And when intimate pictures of seven female students are anonymously emailed to the entire school, Eden is determined to get to the bottom of it.

In tracking down leads, Eden is shocked to discover not everyone agrees the students are victims. Some people feel the girls “brought it on themselves.” Even worse, the school’s administration seems more concerned about protecting its reputation than its students.

With the anonymous sender threatening more emails, Eden finds an unlikely ally: the seven young women themselves. Banding together to find the perpetrator, the tables are about to be turned. The Slut Squad is fighting back!

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TL;DR: Revenge of the sluts was an interesting YA contemporary mixed with a bit of a mystery that takes place in a prestigious private school. I liked the investigative journalism angle that the story took and I think it covers important topics that can foster good discussions, especially amongst the intended young adult audience. I did have issues with the main character being Asian with very surface level stereotypical representation, and the overly descriptive writing did bog the story down, but overall, it was a very easy read that I finished in one sitting!


Revenge of the sluts is not a fast-paced book but it was engaging enough and the writing simple enough for me to quickly work through the pages. While I don’t normally mind descriptive writing, I felt in this instance that the story didn’t benefit from it because it completely dragged the pace down. The mystery of who sent the email was also a bit predictable and I was able to deduce who did it fairly easily, but I did enjoy the investigative journalism angle to the book and it’s what kept me pushing on. I loved learning about the work that actually goes into creating these articles and news items—it’s a lot!—and I could tell that the journalism aspect was something the author is passionate about, and that came through in the writing.

Our main character is Eden Jeong, a Korean-American young woman and one of the few POC that attends St. Joe’s private school (and one of the few POC in the book). I tend to dislike it when white authors write POC main characters because they tend to botch the representation by sticking to stereotypes and that is what happened here. I will say though that I found most of the main (side) characters to be generally indistinguishable as many of them didn’t have strong characteristics that set them apart. Had it not been explicitly mentioned that Eden was Korean-American, I honestly would’ve thought she was another white character in the story and because of that, it feels like the choice to make her Asian was just to have a checkmark beside the diversity box. Aside from that, I thought the high-schoolers were well represented and the various reactions they had to the ‘Nudegate’ scandal were realistic. Eden’s drive to investigate and report on the truth of the situation was also very admirable and it wasn’t hard to root for their success, especially when they worked so hard to give voice to the young women who were exposed. I did expect a bigger revenge role for the sluts, as that’s what the title indicates, but sadly that also didn’t really come through strongly—there is a revenge aspect, it just wasn’t as satisfying or as big as I expected it to be.

Overall, while I had some issues with the writing and characterisations, I think this book has the potential to create some good dialogue—especially amongst its intended YA audience—about slut-shaming, toxic masculinity, cyberbullying, revenge porn and society’s double standards. Young women being shamed for embracing their sexuality while young men are celebrated for it is an old story, but add the revenge porn and cyberbullying aspects and you get something that’s easier for younger audiences, who live the majority of their life online, to connect to.

Have you read Revenge of the Sluts or is it on your TBR?

ARC Review: Up All Night: 13 Stories between Sunset + Sunrise edited by Laura Silverman

Special thanks to Algonquin Young Readers for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: Up All Night: 13 Stories between Sunset + Sunrise
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Publish Date: 13 July 2021
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

When everyone else goes to bed, the ones who stay up feel like they’re the only people in the world. As the hours tick by deeper into the night, the familiar drops away and the unfamiliar beckons. Adults are asleep, and a hush falls over the hum of daily life. Anything is possible.

It’s a time for romance and adventure. For prom night and ghost hunts. It’s a time for breaking up, for falling in love—for finding yourself.

Stay up all night with these thirteen short stories from bestselling and award-winning YA authors like Karen McManus, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nina LaCour, and Brandy Colbert, as they take readers deep into these rarely seen, magical hours

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TL;DR: Up All Night is a wonderful collection of inclusive and diverse stories with rich LGBTQ+, disability, and POC representation. The stories were a good mix of various genres and they ranged from uplifting and heartwarming, to heartbreaking and achingly bittersweet, and even to the chillingly spooky, but all were tied together with themes of love, friendship, family, and coming-of-age. I really enjoyed a lot of these stories and I would happily add this anthology to my shelves to revisit in the future if ever I want to read some heartwarming and nostalgic short stories!

To say I went into this anthology with a little trepidation would be an understatement as I generally don’t have a good track record with the anthologies that I’ve tried. This is definitely more of a ‘me’ thing as I tend to have difficulties connecting with or getting into short stories. That’s why it was such a surprise when I found myself really enjoying all of the stories in this collection! There were a few that were “just okay” and didn’t leave a big impression on me, but there were more that I really liked and even loved, and none that I gave less than 3/5 stars to (and no matter what you think, 3/5 is not a bad rating!). Many of these authors’ books are still on my TBR but I’m now even more excited to pick them up as soon as I can!

Up All Night is a wonderful collection of inclusive and diverse stories with rich LGBTQ+, disability, and POC representation. The stories were also from a good mix of genres including contemporary, romance, light SFF (superheroes!), thriller/mysteries, and horror. They ranged from uplifting and heartwarming, to heartbreaking and achingly bittersweet, and even to the chillingly spooky, but all were tied together with themes of love, friendship, family, and coming-of-age. I found myself experiencing strong bouts of nostalgia as most of these stories are set in the final year(s) of high school when the air is charged with that electric feeling of change and possibility that makes you feel brave enough to take chances—it’s simultaneously nauseating and thrilling and those feelings really came through in the stories. That feeling was also compounded by the stories being set in the night-to-dawn hours when possibilities not only feel endless but the world even feels a little bit more magical.

Individual story ratings:

  • Never Have I Ever: 4/5 (CW/TW: murder)
  • Like Before: 3.5/5
  • Old Rifts and Snow Drifts: 4/5
  • Con Nights, Parallel Hearts: 5/5 (CW/TW: mentions of parental abuse—physical and sexual)
  • Kiss the Boy: 4.5/5
  • Creature Capture: 4/5
  • Shark Bait: 3/5 (CW/TW: racist slur, infidelity, car accident)
  • A Place to Start: 3/5
  • When You Bring A Dog to Prom: 3.5/5
  • Missing: 4.5/5
  • What About Your Friends: 3.5/5 (CW/TW: racism, bigotry)
  • Under Our Masks: 5/5
  • The Ghosts of Goon Creek: 3.5/5

Out of the 13 stories, my favourites were: “Con Nights, Parallel Hearts“, “Under Our Masks”, “Kiss the Boy”, and “Missing”. Ha, trust me, The Ultimate Chicken™️, to end up liking the spookiest story in the collection! 😂 Was I thoroughly creeped out while reading Missing”? Absolutely! My heart was still racing and the back of my neck prickling uncomfortably as I started on the next one but I can appreciate a well-spun tale! “Con Nights, Parallel Hearts absolutely broke my heart and had me unexpectedly crying by the end. It was emotionally raw and powerful. I haven’t read many superhero novels but I was delighted by “Under Our Masks” and the tentative sweet romance that blooms. “Kiss the Boy” filled me to overflowing with nostalgia thinking back on the final days of senior year—absorbing the novelty of the last school event(s), acknowledging secret crushes and taking chances with your heart, mischief-making with the best of friends surrounding you… This was such a delightfully heartwarming story!

Overall, I found this to be a very enjoyable anthology and I’m so glad that I gave this a try!

Have you read Up All night or is it on your TBR?

Blog Tour Review: Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

Today is my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for one of my most anticipated reads of the year: Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim!

Special thanks to Knopf for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Be sure to click on the banner above to check out the rest of the amazing bloggers on tour!

Goodreads: Six Crimson Cranes
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 06 July 2021
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

Continue reading “Blog Tour Review: Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim”

Blog Tour Review: Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

Hello, hello friends! I’m so excited to be back with another blog tour with @TheWriteReads gang! Today I’m sharing a review for a book that looks all cute and fluffy on the outside but takes a step beyond that on the inside: Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon. Don’t forget to check out all the other bloggers participating in this tour: here! 😍

Special thanks to Penguin for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: Instructions for Dancing
Publisher: Penguin
Publish Date: 01 June 2021
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

#1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything and The Sun is Also a Star Nicola Yoon is back with a new and utterly unique romance.

Evie is disillusioned about love ever since her dad left her mum for another woman – she’s even throwing out her beloved romance novel collection.

When she’s given a copy of a book called Instructions for Dancing, and follows a note inside to a dilapidated dance studio, she discovers she has a strange and unwelcome gift. When a couple kisses in front of her, she can see their whole relationship play out – from the moment they first catch each other’s eye to the last bitter moments of their break-up.

For Evie, it confirms everything she thinks she knows about love – that it doesn’t last.

But at the dance studio she meets X – tall, dreadlocked, fascinating – and they start to learn to dance, together. Can X help break the spell that Evie is under? Can he change Evie’s mind about love?

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Continue reading “Blog Tour Review: Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon”

Blog Tour Review: Kind of Sort of Fine by Spencer Hall

Hello, friends! It’s my stop on The Book Terminal Tours blog tour for Kind of Sort of Fine by Spencer Hall. Special thanks to Atheneum Books for Young Readers for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Be sure to click on the banner below to check out the rest of the amazing bloggers on tour!

Goodreads: Kind of Sort of Fine
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: 22 June 2021
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Coming of Age

Panda rating:


Senior year changes everything for two teens in this poignant, funny coming-of-age story that looks at what happens when the image everyone has of us no longer matches who we really are.

Senior year of high school is full of changes.

For Hayley Mills, these changes aren’t exactly welcome. All she wants is for everyone to forget about her very public breakdown and remember her as the overachiever she once was—and who she’s determined to be again. But it’s difficult to be seen as a go-getter when she’s forced into TV Production class with all the slackers like Lewis Holbrook.

For Lewis, though, this is going to be his year. After a summer spent binging 80s movies, he’s ready to upgrade from the role of self-described fat, funny sidekick to leading man of his own life—including getting the girl. The only thing standing in his way is, well, himself.

When the two are partnered up in class, neither is particularly thrilled. But then they start making mini documentaries about their classmates’ hidden talents, and suddenly Hayley is getting attention for something other than her breakdown, and Lewis isn’t just a background character anymore. It seems like they’re both finally getting what they want—except what happens when who you’ve become isn’t who you really are?

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Continue reading “Blog Tour Review: Kind of Sort of Fine by Spencer Hall”

Blog Tour Review: The Edge of Strange Hollow by Gabrielle K. Byrne

Today is my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for The Edge of Strange Hollow by Gabrielle K. Byrne.
Special thanks to Netgalley and Macmillan Children’s Publishing for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Be sure to click on the banner below to check out the rest of the amazing bloggers on tour!

Goodreads: The Edge of Strange Hollow
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Publishing
Publication Date: 11 May 2021
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

Welcome to Strange Hollow. Beware the Grimwood.

Poppy Sunshine isn’t like everyone else in Strange Hollow. She’s not afraid of the Grimwood, home to magical creatures like shape-shifters, fairies, witches, and even a three-headed dog.

Banned from the wood by her parents, Poppy longs to learn everything about it and imagines joining her mother and father as they hunt the forest’s cursed magical objects. So when her only family disappears on a routine expedition, she and her friends must break every rule to save them. But Poppy soon discovers that things in the Grimwood are rarely what they seem…

And the monsters who took her parents may not be monsters at all. 

Continue reading “Blog Tour Review: The Edge of Strange Hollow by Gabrielle K. Byrne”