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”

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. 

PRE-ORDER A COPY:

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?

Blog Tour Review: Silence Is a Sense by Layla AlAmmar

Special thanks to Algonquin Books for inviting me to be on the blog tour and for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: Silence Is a Sense
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: 16 March 2021
Genre: Literary Fiction

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

A young woman sits in her apartment in an unnamed English city, absorbed in watching the small dramas of her assorted neighbors through their windows across the way. Traumatized into muteness after a long, devastating trip from war-torn Syria to the UK, she believes that she wants to sink deeper into isolation, moving between memories of her absent boyfriend and family and her homeland, dreams, and reality. At the same time, she begins writing for a magazine under the pseudonym “the Voiceless,” trying to explain the refugee experience without sensationalizing it—or revealing anything about herself.

Gradually, as the boundaries of her world expand—as she ventures to the neighborhood corner store, to a gathering at a nearby mosque, and to the bookstore and laundromat, and as an anti-Muslim hate crime shatters the members of a nearby mosque—she has to make a choice: Will she remain a voiceless observer, or become an active participant in her own life and in a community that, despite her best efforts, is quickly becoming her own?

TL;DR: March 15 marked ten years since the start of the Syrian war. Millions of people have been become refugees and internally displaced and hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives. These are numbers that are so LARGE that it’s impossible to comprehend. What is it like for people to literally watch their nation crumble right before their eyes? To have to choose between leaving and living or staying and (very possibly) dying? As stated in an interview, through this book, AlAmmar set out to ‘dispel the abstractions’ of the literal crumbling of a nation and to ground the magnitude of such devastation and loss through a personal narrative and she does an INCREDIBLE job. Poetically written, thought-provoking and emotionally explosive, this isn’t an easy read at all but my gosh is it absolutely worth it! This will undoubtedly be one of the most impactful books I read in 2021 and I highly recommend it.

Continue reading “Blog Tour Review: Silence Is a Sense by Layla AlAmmar”

Book Review: Take A Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Goodreads: Take A Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters #2)
Publisher: Avon
Published: 23 June 2020
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom.

When brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and ex-rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Now half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out, his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse?

Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf’s secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his… um, thighs.

Suddenly, the easy lay Dani dreamed of is more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?

Yes. Yes. YAAAAAS to this book!!! Oh my lordy lordy. MY FEELS. The swooning. I just… THE FEELS! If you love the fake dating trope, witty banter that will have you simultaneously swooning and cracking up, smart AF badass bisexual heroines, super soft hopeless romantic heroes, crackling chemistry and intensely steamy scenes: don’t sleep on this one. Talia Hibbert really brings it all with this romance I’m so here for it!

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Book Review: The Switch by Beth O’Leary

Goodreads: The Switch
Publisher: Quercus
Published: 16 April 2020
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

Leena is too young to feel stuck.
Eileen is too old to start over.
Maybe it’s time for The Switch…


Ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, Leena escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Newly single and about to turn eighty, Eileen would like a second chance at love. But her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen… So Leena proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love, and Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with a rabble of unruly OAPs to contend with, as well as the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – local schoolteacher, Leena learns that switching lives isn’t straightforward. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, and with the online dating scene. But is her perfect match nearer to home than she first thought?

It took me a while to get around to it but I’m so glad that I finally picked up The Switch. I buddy read this with Leslie @ Books Are The New Black and it was so much fun! It made me wonder why I didn’t do buddy reads more when it’s so great to have someone to gush and whine to while reading 😂 We both tried to pace ourselves but we ended up devouring this book because it was so easy and mostly enjoyable to read! Don’t forget to check out Leslie’s review! This has, without a doubt, cemented O’Leary in my auto-buy and favourite authors list because she definitely knows how to write those feel-good heartwarming stories that leave you wanting more. 🥰

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Blog Tour Review: At the Edge of the Haight by Katherine Seligman

Special thanks to Algonquin Books for inviting me to be on the blog tour and for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: At the Edge of the Haight
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: 19 January 2021
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Panda Rating:

(actual 2.75 pandas)

Maddy Donaldo, homeless at twenty, has made a family of sorts in the dangerous spaces of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. She knows whom to trust, where to eat, when to move locations, and how to take care of her dog. It’s the only home she has. When she unwittingly witnesses the murder of a young homeless boy and is seen by the perpetrator, her relatively stable life is upended. Suddenly, everyone from the police to the dead boys’ parents want to talk to Maddy about what she saw. As adults pressure her to give up her secrets and reunite with her own family before she meets a similar fate, Maddy must decide whether she wants to stay lost or be found. Against the backdrop of a radically changing San Francisco, a city which embraces a booming tech economy while struggling to maintain its culture of tolerance, At the Edge of the Haight follows the lives of those who depend on makeshift homes and communities.

As judge Hillary Jordan says, “This book pulled me deep into a world I knew little about, bringing the struggles of its young, homeless inhabitants—the kind of people we avoid eye contact with on the street—to vivid, poignant life. The novel demands that you take a close look. If you knew, could you still ignore, fear, or condemn them? And knowing, how can you ever forget?”

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Blog Tour Review: The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington

Special thanks to Algonquin Books for inviting me to be on tour and for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: The Fortunate Ones
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: 05 January 2021
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

When Charlie Boykin was young, he thought his life with his single mother on the working-class side of Nashville was perfectly fine. But when his mother arranges for him to be admitted as a scholarship student to an elite private school, he is suddenly introduced to what the world can feel like to someone cushioned by money. That world, he discovers, is an almost irresistible place where one can bend—and break—rules and still end up untarnished. As he gets drawn into a friendship with a charismatic upperclassman, Archer Creigh, and an affluent family that treats him like an adopted son, Charlie quickly adapts to life in the upper echelons of Nashville society. Under their charming and alcohol-soaked spell, how can he not relax and enjoy it all—the lack of anxiety over money, the easy summers spent poolside at perfectly appointed mansions, the lavish parties, the freedom to make mistakes knowing that everything can be glossed over or fixed?
 
But over time, Charlie is increasingly pulled into covering for Archer’s constant deceits and his casual bigotry. At what point will the attraction of wealth and prestige wear off enough for Charlie to take a stand—and will he?
 
The Fortunate Ones is an immersive, elegantly written story that conveys both the seductiveness of this world and the corruption of the people who see their ascent to the top as their birthright.

Continue reading “Blog Tour Review: The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington”

First Impressions Spotlight: Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen

So it turns out that I noted my date incorrectly for this Algonquin tour and I didn’t bother to recheck it like I usually do because it’s been so busy… and I feel terrible about it! 😰 I have read 30% of the book though so this will be a “First Impressions” review but I will follow it up with a full review ASAP!

Thanks to Algonquin Books and NetGalley for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: Big Girl, Small Town
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: 01 December 2020
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Irish Literature

Majella is happiest out of the spotlight, away from her neighbors’ stares and the gossips of the small town in Northern Ireland where she grew up during the Troubles. She lives a quiet life caring for her alcoholic mother, working in the local chip shop, and watching the regular customers come and go. She wears the same clothes each day (overalls, too small), has the same dinner each night (fish and chips, microwaved at home after her shift ends), and binge-watches old DVDs of the same show (Dallas, best show on TV) from the comfort of her bed. But underneath Majella’s seemingly ordinary life are the facts that she doesn’t know where her father is and that every person in her town has been changed by the lingering divide between Protestants and Catholics. When Majella’s seemingly mundane existence is upended by the death of her granny, she comes to realize there may be more to life than the gossips of Aghybogey, the pub, and the chip shop. In fact, there just may be a whole big world outside her small town. 

Continue reading “First Impressions Spotlight: Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen”

#5OnMyTBR: Books with (Great) Friendships

Hello Mondays, welcome back to #5OnMyTBR, a meme created by the wonderful E @ The Local Bee Hunter’s Nook. This bookish meme gets us to dig even further into our TBRs by simply posting about five books on our TBR! You can learn more about it here or in the post announcing it. You can find the full list of prompts (past and future) at the end of this post!

This week’s prompt is: Friendships

Continue reading “#5OnMyTBR: Books with (Great) Friendships”