Book Review: The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

Goodreads: The Empress of Salt and Fortune (The Singing Hills Cycle #1)
Publisher: Tordotcom
Published: 24 March 2020
Genre: Adult SFF

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

With the heart of an Atwood tale and the visuals of a classic Asian period drama The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a tightly and lushly written narrative about empire, storytelling, and the anger of women.

A young royal from the far north is sent south for a political marriage. Alone and sometimes reviled, she has only her servants on her side. This evocative debut chronicles her rise to power through the eyes of her handmaiden, at once feminist high fantasy and a thrilling indictment of monarchy.

TL;DR: I started reading this thinking that it would go way over my head. I wasn’t connecting, I wasn’t understanding each time Rabbit would end a story and ask “Do you understand?” and I was kinda tempted to DNF. And then something clicked and as I continued reading and more things made sense, I listened to my urge to go back to the beginning to re-read what I didn’t understand at first… And then I got it and mind-blown. 🤯

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Book Review: A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

Goodreads: A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot #1)
Publisher: Tordotcom
Published: 13 July 2021
Genre: Adult SFF

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

Centuries before, robots of Panga gained self-awareness, laid down their tools, wandered, en masse into the wilderness, never to be seen again. They faded into myth and urban legend.

Now the life of the tea monk who tells this story is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered. But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how. They will need to ask it a 
lot. Chambers’ series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter? 

I asked Jess @ Jessticulates to buddy read this with me so I would actually pick this book up. I’m so glad that I finally read my first Becky Chambers book because the hype is real, friends!

TL;DR: It took no more than one chapter for me to realise just how much I would enjoy this book. The characters rapidly grew on me and the story was a soothing read that asked questions that really hit a mark with me. I followed along with parts of the book with the audio, which I would also recommend, and I have a feeling I’ll return to this book often when I’m craving a comforting read.

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Book Review: Gallant by V.E. Schwab

Goodreads: Gallant
Publisher: Titan Books
Published: 01 March 2022
Genre: Young Adult Gothic Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

Everything casts a shadow. Even the world we live in. And as with every shadow, there is a place where it must touch. A seam, where the shadow meets its source.

Olivia Prior has grown up in Merilance School for girls, and all she has of her past is her mother’s journal—which seems to unravel into madness. Then, a letter invites Olivia to come home—to Gallant. Yet when Olivia arrives, no one is expecting her. But Olivia is not about to leave the first place that feels like home, it doesn’t matter if her cousin Matthew is hostile or if she sees half-formed ghouls haunting the hallways.

Olivia knows that Gallant is hiding secrets, and she is determined to uncover them. When she crosses a ruined wall at just the right moment, Olivia finds herself in a place that is Gallant—but not. The manor is crumbling, the ghouls are solid, and a mysterious figure rules over all. Now Olivia sees what has unraveled generations of her family, and where her father may have come from.

Olivia has always wanted to belong somewhere, but will she take her place as a Prior, protecting our world against the Master of the House? Or will she take her place beside him? 

If it weren’t for my buddy read with Leslie @Books Are the New Black, this probably would’ve ended up sitting unread on my shelf for a while. Sadly, she didn’t have as great a time with this one as I did and although I liked it, I can totally understand why she didn’t!

TL;DR: I had a bit of a hard time figuring out how I really felt about this book. Although I did end up enjoying it, I can also really understand why people wouldn’t like it. While I don’t think this fully lived up to the hype for me, I was still able to get on board with Olivia’s search for the truth about her family and for a place to call home. If you like slow-moving plots and spooky atmospheric writing, not to mention a pretty quick read, I’d recommend checking this out!

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Book Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Goodreads: Gods of Jade and Shadow
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Published: 23 July 2019
Genre: Adult Historical Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark, one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

I buddy read this with Leslie @Books Are the New Black and although it started out rocky for the both of us, we ended up really enjoying the story. The angst really sent us! 😂


CHECK OUT LESLIE’S REVIEW!


TL;DR: The moment I finished this book I immediately re-read the last few chapters of the book three times throughout the day. To say this ending had me in a chokehold would be an understatement! If you love stories rich in mythology, culture and history, fantastical adventures, and a classic swoonworthy and achingly angsty romance, I would definitely recommend giving this a try! This was my first book by Moreno-Garcia and I’m sure it won’t be my last!

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BBNYA Blog Tour Review: Accused by M.N. Jolley

Hello, hello friends! I’m so excited to be back for another blog tour hosted by @The Write Reads for third place BBNYA 2021 finalist Accused (KC Warlock Weekly #1) by M.N. Jolley. Don’t forget to check out all the other bloggers participating in this tour: here or click on the banner below! 😍

*Find out more about the BBNYA competition at the end of my post!*

Special thanks to the author for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: Accused (The KC Warlock Weekly #1)
Publish Date: 03 November 2020
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy Mystery

Panda Rating:

(3 pandas)

My name is Levi. I’m a journalist, I’m autistic, I’m bad at magic, and I swear I didn’t kill her.

Research for the paper usually falls into a few basic patterns. Someone in the city says there’s a troll under Buck O’Neil Bridge, or they’ll call just so a friendly ear will listen to them complain about a pixie infestation.
That sort of content carries me through slow news weeks. It’s rare that I uncover a murder.
Being framed for murder, though? That’s a first.

With the Wizard’s Council hunting me for a crime I didn’t commit, I’ve got no choice but to solve the murder and clear my name. If I don’t unravel this case, nobody will, and I’ll go down for it so hard I might never see the light of day again

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BBNYA Blog Tour Review: Beneath Cruel Fathoms by Anela Deen

Hello, hello friends! I’m so excited to be back for another blog tour hosted by @The Write Reads for BBNYA 2021 finalist Beneath Cruel Fathoms by Anela Deen. Don’t forget to check out all the other bloggers participating in this tour: here or click on the banner below! 😍

*For those who want to know more about BBNYA more information about the competition can be found at the end of my post!*

Special thanks to the author for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: Beneath Cruel Fathoms
Publisher: Fine Fable Press
Publish Date: 17 May 2019
Genre: Adult Fantasy, Romance Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

After a violent storm destroys her ship, Isaura Johansdottir knows better than to hope she’ll be rescued from Eisland’s vast Failock Sea. Adrift and alone, her plans to start over lost, it’s a tragic conclusion after the disastrous end of her marriage—until she’s saved by Leonel, one of the merfolk, a creature long believed extinct. In repayment for her life, Leonel enlists her help to investigate the Failock’s mysterious and deadly plague of squalls. But when Isaura discovers Eisland’s ruthless new Lord commands the storms, her life will be in more danger on land than it ever was at sea.

As guardian of the Fathoms, Leonel must find the cause of unnatural storms ravaging the tidal currents and destroying the sea life. There are rumors of dark magic stirring in the Orom Abyss, the resting place of old, vanquished gods who tried to submerge the land millennia ago. Yet without proof, no one in King Ægir’s court will listen to him. And if it’s discovered he broke the Blue Laws to save a shipwrecked landweller, he might not survive the consequences.

As storms spread, Leonel and Isaura uncover secrets as forbidden as the bond that grows between them. Betrayal lurks in the restless sea, and when ancient powers lay siege to Eisland’s coast, the truth may be drowned along with everything else

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Book Review: The Deep by Rivers Solomon

Goodreads: The Deep
Publisher: Saga Press
Published: 05 November 2019
Genre: Adult SFF

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.

Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.

Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past—and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity—and own who they really are.

Inspired by a song produced by the rap group Clipping for the This American Life episode “We Are In The Future,” The Deep is vividly original and uniquely affecting.

TL;DR: This was a stunning little novella that packs a punch for how short it is. Through this fantastical world, Solomon does an incredible job exploring intergenerational trauma, the impact of shared memories and identity. While this might be a sombre read it’s written in a way that’s not oppressive or heavy and I could’ve read so much more of the lore, the setting and the characters. This was definitely a unique read that I think will churn through my mind for days to come and I can’t wait to read more of what Solomon has written! I would also highly recommend the audiobook because Daveed Diggs’ narration really helped to give this story life.

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Blog Tour Review: The Thirteenth Hour by Trudie Skies

Hello, hello friends! I’m so excited to be back with another blog tour hosted by @The Write Reads for The Thirteenth Hour by Trudie Skies. Don’t forget to check out all the other bloggers participating in this tour: here or click on the banner below! 😍

Special thanks to the author for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Cover artist: James T. Egan of Bookfly Design

Goodreads: The Thirteenth Hour (Cruel Gods #1)
Publish Date: 13 October 2021
Genre: Adult Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

When the saints fail, the sinners step up.

Cruel gods rule the steam-powered city of Chime, demanding worship and tribute from their mortal subjects. Kayl lost her faith in them long ago, and now seeks to protect vulnerable and downtrodden mortals from their gods’ whims. But when Kayl discovers powers that she didn’t know she had—and destroys a mortal’s soul by accident—she becomes Chime’s most wanted.

Quen’s job was to pursue sinners, until the visions started. Haunted by foreboding images of his beloved city’s destruction, Quen hunts soul-sucking creatures made of aether who prey on its citizens—and Kayl is his number one target.

To ensure Chime’s future, Kayl and Quen must discover the truth of Kayl’s divine abilities before the gods take matters into their own hands.

For a city that bows to cruel gods, it’ll take godless heathens to save it.

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Book Review: King of Battle and Blood by Scarlett St. Clair

Goodreads: King of Battle and Blood (Adrian X Isolde #1)
Published: 30 November 2021
Genre: Fantasy Romance (Romantasy)

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

Their Union Is His Revenge.

Isolde de Lara considers her wedding day her death day. To end a years-long war, she is to marry vampire king, Adrian Aleksandr Vasiliev, and kill him. ⠀

But her assassination attempt is thwarted and Adrian threatens that if Isolde tries kill him again, he will raise her as the undead. Faced with the possibility of becoming the thing she hates most, Isolde seeks other ways to defy him and survive the brutal vampire court. ⠀

Except it isn’t the court she fears most—it’s Adrain. Despite their undeniable chemistry, she wonders why the king——fierce, savage, merciless—chose her as consort. ⠀

The answer will shatter her world. 

TL;DR: If you love vampires, witches, and other paranormal creatures, a fantasy world full of political intrigue and backstabbing drama, and an extremely steamy but nonetheless swoony romance between fated lovers, then I would recommend checking this one out! This was strongly reminiscent of JLA’s From Blood and Ash books with the same addicting qualities to it but I personally enjoyed my reading experience of this one so much more (take that as you will but pls no attack lol)! 😂

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Book Review: The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

Goodreads: The Wolf and the Woodsman
Published: 08 June 2021
Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.

But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.

As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all. 

TL;DR: I started off really enjoying this fantastical world that’s richly infused with magic and folklore, not to mention being very excited about the enemies-to-lovers romance that I’ve been hearing all about. Sadly, I found myself losing steam thanks to the erratic pacing, plus I also found it difficult to connect to and care about our main characters—which meant that although there were some swoony moments between Gáspár and Évike, I didn’t end up being blown away by their chemistry or romance. No one’s more disappointed than I am that I didn’t enjoy this one more because I was absolutely ready to love this and thought I’d be kicking off my 2022 with a banging 5-star read. 😮‍💨 Still, I’m glad that I gave it a try; I didn’t dislike it but if I’m honest, I feel kind of meh about it.

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