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.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Sugared Game by K.J. Charles”

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!

Continue reading “Book Review: Slippery Creatures by K.J. Charles”

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?

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

BUY A COPY:

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: The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk

Today is my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk.
Special thanks to Netgalley and Little Brown Books 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 Other Side of Perfect
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Publication Date: 11 May 2021
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Panda Rating:

(actual 4.5 pandas)

Alina Keeler was destined to dance, but one terrifying fall shatters her leg–and her dreams of a professional ballet career along with it. 

After a summer healing (translation: eating vast amounts of Cool Ranch Doritos and binging ballet videos on YouTube), she is forced to trade her pre-professional dance classes for normal high school, where she reluctantly joins the school musical. However, rehearsals offer more than she expected–namely Jude, her annoyingly attractive cast mate she just might be falling for. 

But to move forward, Alina must make peace with her past and face the racism she had grown to accept in the dance industry. She wonders what it means to yearn for ballet–something so beautiful, yet so broken. And as broken as she feels, can she ever open her heart to someone else? 

Touching, romantic, and peppered with humor, this debut novel explores the tenuousness of perfectionism, the possibilities of change, and the importance of raising your voice. 

CW/TW: the protagonist is dealing with a lot of anger and some depression, various experiences of racism, bullying

Continue reading “Blog Tour Review: The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk”

Blog Tour Review: Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli

Hello, hello friends! I’m so excited to be back for another blog tour with @TheWriteReads today for a highly anticipated YA contemporary: Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli. Be sure to check out all the other bloggers participating in this tour: here! 😍

Special thanks to Penguin and @The_WriteReads tours team for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: Kate in Waiting
Publisher: Penguin
Published: 22 April 2021
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

From bestselling YA rom-com queen Becky Albertalli (author of Love, Simon) comes a new novel about daring to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight in love, life and theatre.

[PRINCIPAL CAST LIST]

Kate Garfield
Anderson Walker

Best friends, and contrary to popular belief, not co-dependent. Examples:

Carpooling to and from theatre rehearsals? Environmentally sound and efficient.
Consulting each other on every single life decision? Basic good judgment.
Pining for the same guys from afar? Shared crushes are more fun anyway.

But when Kate and Andy’s latest long-distance crush shows up at their school, everything goes off-script.

Enter Stage Left: Matt Olsson

He is talented and sweet, and Kate likes him. She really likes him. The only problem? So does Anderson.

Turns out, communal crushes aren’t so fun when real feelings are involved. This one might even bring the curtains down on Kate and Anderson’s friendship…

BUY NOW:

Continue reading “Blog Tour Review: Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli”

First Lines Friday – 09 April

Happy Friday book lovers! We’re back with another First Lines Friday, a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines? Here are the rules:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

First lines:

“I sit with my wrists cuffed to the table and I think, But that I am forbid / To tell the secrets of my prison-house, / I could a tale unfold whose lightest word / Would harrow up thy soul. The guard stands by the door, watching me, like he’s waiting for something to happen.”

Do you recognize the book these first lines come from?

Continue reading “First Lines Friday – 09 April”

Goodreads Monday – In Deeper Waters by F.T. Lukens

Welcome back to Goodreads Monday! It’s been a very hot minute since I did one but I figured I might as well get back into it! This weekly meme was started by @Lauren’s Page Turners and it invites you to pick a book from your TBR and explain why you want to read it. Easy enough, right? Feel free to join in if you want to! I’ll be using a random number generator to pick my books from my insanely long GR Want-to-read list.*

*Sorry if a book has been featured twice. I need to make better note of which ones I’ve done already!

This week’s featured book is In Deeper Waters by F.T. Lukens. This is a YA historical fantasy that comes out mid-April 2021!

Continue reading “Goodreads Monday – In Deeper Waters by F.T. Lukens”

ARC Review: Namesake by Adrienne Young

Thanks to NetGalley and Wednesday Books/St Martin’s Press for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review. Check out my review for Fable (Fable #1)!

Goodreads: Namesake (Fable #2)
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: 16 March 2021
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

Trader. Fighter. Survivor.

With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and its crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when she becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems. As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception she learns that her mother was keeping secrets, and those secrets are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them then she must risk everything, including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found.

TL;DR: Overall, a very satisfying and neatly wrapped up conclusion to this duology. If you love stories full of action, a strong female lead, a cast of morally grey characters that you also can’t help but root for (mostly), and a setting in which the sea comes to life off the pages, I would highly recommend checking out these books! Also, major cover appreciation to this set of covers because they’re STUNNING!

Continue reading “ARC Review: Namesake by Adrienne Young”

First Lines Friday – 05 March

Happy Friday book lovers! We’re back with another First Lines Friday, a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines? Here are the rules:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

First lines:

“My first dive was followed by my first drink of rye. The sea was filled with the sound of gemstones as I swam, following my mother’s silhouette toward the puddle of light rippling on the surface of the water.”

Do you recognize the book these first lines come from?

Continue reading “First Lines Friday – 05 March”