Book Review: The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

Goodreads: The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy #1)
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Published: 14 November 2017
Genre: NA/Adult Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trades she uses to get by–palm readings, zars, and a mysterious gift for healing–are all tricks, both the means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles and a reliable way to survive.

But when Nahri accidentally summons Dara, an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior, to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to reconsider her beliefs. For Dara tells Nahri an extraordinary tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire and rivers where the mythical marid sleep, past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises and mountains where the circling birds of prey are more than what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass–a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In Daevabad, within gilded brass walls laced with enchantments and behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments run deep. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, her arrival threatens to ignite a war that has been simmering for centuries.

Spurning Dara’s warning of the treachery surrounding her, she embarks on a hesitant friendship with Alizayd, an idealistic prince who dreams of revolutionizing his father’s corrupt regime. All too soon, Nahri learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say to be careful what you wish for . . . 

TL;DR: I had *thoughts* after reading this and I didn’t quite know how to put them into words. I realise that my review sounds a little on the negative side but I ultimately did enjoy this. It’s not what I expected and I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would but the world-building was fantastic, the complex characters interesting, and the last 15% had me holding on tight to the edge of my seat. Plus, the character who I started out disliking the most ended up being the one I sympathised with most at the end and I couldn’t have been more surprised. It does have quite a slow start but I’d say it’s worth it to keep reading—just hang in there! 😂

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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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Book Review: The Rake of Hearts by Emily Windsor

Goodreads: The Rake of Hearts (A Lady to Suit #2)
Publisher: Senara Press Ltd
Published: 02 April 2020
Genre: Regency Romance, Historical Fiction

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

When the heart is afire…
By his own admission, Lord Ernest Brook is a rake. With sapphire gaze, sinfully handsome looks and a duke for a brother, the pleasures of London have come with ease…apart from one.
Ever since the gauntlet of her first wintry dismissal was thrown, the widowed Hebe Lock has stirred his deepest desires, but just what would it take to woo such a woman?

Sparks will fly.
Hebe Locke has vowed to never again fall for a scoundrel after her brief marriage to one left her broken and haunted.
Now she finds comfort with paintbrush and canvas, but as a female artist in a male world, commissions are as rare as a ballroom without rakes.

A castle of enchantment.
As the heat of late summer warms the land, an ancient, moated castle plays host to a widow and a rake, both concealing passions contrary to their reputations.
But as Lord Ernest awakens Hebe’s desire and thaws her frozen emotions, can she hold true to her vow?
Or can this rake win the one heart he yearns for?

Sensual Regency romance with warmth and wit, this tale also includes a disreputable aunt with a secondary love story, Cotswold country fairs, sinful masquerades and…a goat.

TL;DR: After meeting Ernest in his brother’s story, The Duke of Diamonds, and getting a glimpse of the potential romance between him and Mrs. Locke, I had a feeling that I’d love their story and I wasn’t wrong! Who knew that a rake could be so devastatingly sweet? Honestly, if Ernest had pointedly looked at me over the top of his glasses across the table, I’d probably have swooned into my pudding too! 😂 I found the writaing just as full of wit and warmth in this book and there were some great laugh-out-loud moments as well, especially as Hebe and Ernest playfully antagonise each other at the beginning!

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Book Review: The Duke of Diamonds by Emily Windsor

Goodreads: The Duke of Diamonds (A Lady to Suit #1)
Publisher: Senara Press Ltd
Published: 02 April 2020
Genre: Regency Romance, Historical Fiction

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

In the coldest flint, there is fire…
Casper Brook, the eighth Duke of Rothwell, has forever spurned frivolous pleasures, his restless emotions remaining buried beneath duty and command.
Yet when a titian-haired minx perches upon his ducal desk and claims to know the whereabouts of his one burning obsession, a game of wits and passion erupts…

Fire ignites from a spark…
Miss Evelyn Pearce possesses naught but a frail young sister and an ebony-black cat. Left destitute by her baronet father’s spendthrift ways, fate and talent hand her the opportunity to seek escape from the dangerous alleys of London town.
The cold Duke of Diamonds holds the key, and all Evelyn must do is resist his not-so-cold kiss…

A dance of flaming desire…
A passion forged on secrets can never be satisfied, but as guises fall and plots unravel, will the duke’s controlled façade shatter to reveal his searching heart within?
Regency romance with warmth and wit. This book contains sensual scenes.

TL;DR: The Duke of Diamonds was such an entertaining and well-written regency romance that 100% made me feel immersed in the setting. I love how the author really incorporated the slang of the times as it made it seem more authentic. The characters had depth and their romance was a sweet slow-burn that was worth the wait when they finally get their HEA. This is a fun start to a new series and I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a historical romance that doesn’t have historical heroes that conduct themselves questionably!

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Book Review: Subtle Blood by K.J. Charles

Goodreads: Subtle Blood (The Will Darling Adventures #3)
Publisher: KJC Books
Published: 23 June 2021
Genre: Historical Romance, Mystery/Thriller

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

Will Darling is all right. His business is doing well, and so is his illicit relationship with Kim Secretan–disgraced aristocrat, ex-spy, amateur book-dealer. It’s starting to feel like he’s got his life under control.

And then a brutal murder in a gentleman’s club plunges them back into the shadow world of crime, deception, and the power of privilege. Worse, it brings them up against Kim’s noble, hostile family, and his upper-class life where Will can never belong.

With old and new enemies against them, and secrets on every side, Will and Kim have to fight for each other harder than ever—or be torn apart for good. 

Check out my review for books one and two:

TL;DR: Subtle Blood is the third and final book in The Will Darling Adventures and it was an extremely satisfying conclusion. The stakes continue to be high as Will and Kim’s friends and family get caught up in the cross-hairs of Zodiac’s games, leaving them to get cracking with the (not so) secret agent sleuthing! I came to love Will and Kim even more in this book as they work through some more rough patches and decide whether they have a future together. These two are hands-down one of my favourite couples and I had one helluva time with together with them. ❤️

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Book Review: The Sugared Game by K.J. Charles

Goodreads: The Sugared Game (The Will Darling Adventures #2)
Publisher: KJC Books
Published: 26 August 2020
Genre: Historical Romance, Mystery

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

It’s been two months since Will Darling saw Kim Secretan, and he doesn’t expect to see him again. What do a rough and ready soldier-turned-bookseller and a disgraced shady aristocrat have to do with each other anyway?

But when Will encounters a face from the past in a disreputable nightclub, Kim turns up, as shifty, unreliable, and irresistible as ever. And before Will knows it, he’s been dragged back into Kim’s shadowy world of secrets, criminal conspiracies, and underhand dealings.

This time, though, things are underhanded even by Kim standards. This time, the danger is too close to home. And if Will and Kim can’t find common ground against unseen enemies, they risk losing everything.

A 1920s m/m romance trilogy in the spirit of Golden Age pulp fiction.

TL;DR: With the basics set in book one, the pace of The Sugared Game was much faster! K.J. Charles gives us more of the roaring 20s and I felt fully immersed in the story. Will and Kim become even more embroiled in the Zodiac’s games and the stakes get even higher when they find out that the leader is closer than they realised. The romance and mystery is well-balanced but we do get more romance here, which I wasn’t mad at. I love Will Darling even more but we also get to see a more vulnerable side to Kim that had my heart breaking! This sequel was fast-paced and action-packed and had a deliciously steamy romance, and I can’t wait to see where the author takes them next.

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Book Review: Slippery Creatures by K.J. Charles

Goodreads: Slippery Creatures (The Will Darling Adventures #1)
Publisher: KJC Books
Published: 13 May 2020
Genre: Historical Romance, Mystery

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

Will Darling came back from the Great War with a few scars, a lot of medals, and no idea what to do next. Inheriting his uncle’s chaotic second-hand bookshop is a blessing…until strange visitors start making threats. First a criminal gang, then the War Office, both telling Will to give them the information they want, or else.

Will has no idea what that information is, and nobody to turn to, until Kim Secretan—charming, cultured, oddly attractive—steps in to offer help. As Kim and Will try to find answers and outrun trouble, mutual desire grows along with the danger.

And then Will discovers the truth about Kim. His identity, his past, his real intentions. Enraged and betrayed, Will never wants to see him again.

But Will possesses knowledge that could cost thousands of lives. Enemies are closing in on him from all sides—and Kim is the only man who can help.


A 1920s m/m romance trilogy in the spirit of Golden Age pulp fiction.

TL;DR: Despite a somewhat slow start, it didn’t take long for me to get hooked into the story! Slippery Creatures has a good balance of mystery and romance and I found myself enjoying both aspects of the story in equal measure. I really enjoyed the author’s writing style and the vernacular and mannerisms of the characters really helped to bring the Golden Era to life. The plot-driven story is full of intrigue and action, but the characters were also wonderful and I adored our MC, Will Darling. I’ve already got the second book lined up and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

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