Takakush by Raine Reiter

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I’m thrilled to share this wonderfully dark fantasy with you all today. It’s called Takakush by Raine Reiter!

Read on for an excerpt and a chance to win an amazing giveaway – A copy of the book AND a bunch of swag!

Takakush-Kindle

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Takakush: Genus Magic #1

Rating: 4/5 stars

Publication Date: January 25th, 2021

Genre: Mature YA, NA, Urban (Dark) Fantasy

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When Professor Elena Lukas returns to her cozy Pacific Northwest hometown with a broken heart, she’s plunged back into the fate she tried to escape. Like her mother and grandmother before her, Elena must now dedicate her life to a powerful ancient Lithuanian goddess. Although she is prepared to live as a priestess hiding in a contemporary tourist town, she arrives to find that a series of so-called animal attacks have terrorized her forest.

With the help of a handsome detective from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Elena uses her expertise in invasive and endangered species to identify that these are no normal animal attacks. The woods are stalked by a dark, mystical creature bent on ravaging the area in an attempt to quell its insatiable hunger. When her little sister goes missing, Elena realizes that the beast can only be vanquished if she is brave enough to face it in-person, embrace her identity as a high priestess, and expose her powers to the man she is growing feelings for.

Raine Reiter weaves together an empowered, female-centered narrative with rich descriptions of nature and an ever-present sense of mystery. Her vivid, flowing prose takes readers of dark fantasy into a world that looks and feels real, while still evoking the enticing paranormal creativity shared by authors such as Richelle Mead and Kat Richardson.

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Excerpt

Crunch, rustle, crunch. Gabby turned toward the noise. “Come on, boy. Here, kitty.”

A statue stood silhouetted against a backdrop of trees. Clouds gathered in the night sky, the moonlight faded, and stars disappeared. Goosebumps rose on her arms. “Trouble?” Gabby got to her feet and stepped forward for a better look.

It took her a moment to recognize the sound; air rasping in and out. Something very close breathed.

Then the statue moved. Gabby froze.

That’s not made of stone. It’s someone. Adrenaline hit her bloodstream with an electric jolt. Her heart sped. Gabby squeaked, short and high as a rodent in a trap. She turned and sprinted toward the house.

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In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Pages: 187

Series: Wayward Children, Book 4

Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Novella, Urban Fantasy, Magical Realism

Publication Date: January 8th 2019

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This prequel story tells the tale of Lundy, a very serious young girl who would rather study than live up to the expectations of the world around her. When she finds a doorway to a world founded in logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. But everything has a cost in the goblin market…

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Through the words on the page she followed Alice down rabbit holes and Dorothy into tornadoes, solved mysteries alongside Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, flew with Peter to Neverland, and made a wonderful journey to a Mushroom Palace.

Ch. 1, pg. 13

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I cried reading this. A lot. And it’s not even that sad of a story!

I’ve heard a lot of great things about Seanan McGuire’s writing over the years, and it’s far past time that I actually sat down to read one of her stories. I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical that this story would live up to the hype. Not only did it live up to the hype, but it became one of the best stories I’ve read in a long while.

I picked this book up to be my January pick for the Buzzword Readothon/Reading Challenge and loved every second of it. Even though looking at the series In an Absent Dream is technically the fourth book in the series, I felt that since this story is a prequel there was no harm in reading it before picking up the actual first book in the series. And you’d better believe I plan on reading the rest of this series – in order this time. (Even though I’ve heard that each book can stand on its own, I’m still interested to see how the world progresses from book to book.)

If you’re interested in how I plan on participating in the 2021 Buzzword Readathon, check out my host here.

Personally, I adored seeing the ways in which Lundy worked within the rules, stretching them to suit her needs but never breaking them. Her thinking was a lot like the way I think about things which made for a truly immersive read. What loopholes will help you get ahead without having dire consequences? How do you maintain the ethical boundaries you’ve set for yourself while still trying to please those around you?

There wasn’t much – if anything – that I could find fault with in this story. To me, it was a near flawless 5 star read. The flow of the story, the characters and their motivations, the world building… everything. Nothing came without its own personal price, and even though I didn’t always like the prices that had to be paid, I could respect what they were.

I can’t wait to see what else this series has in store for me.

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MU: The Grimm Cases by Lyla Oweds

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Welcome to the book tour for MU: The Grimm Cases by Lyla Oweds! Read on for more details and a chance to win a print copy of this amazing collection!

The Grimm Cases Omnibus 1-3

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MU: The Grimm Cases

Rating: 4/5 stars

Genre: New Adult, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Reverse Harem, (Light) Horror

Publication Date: August 15th, 2019

Length: 688 pages

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Bianca, a timid and shy university student, has no choice but to step outside her comfort zone to seek answers to her ghostly problems. The only problem is that, because of what she finds, she now has more questions than before.

The things I see aren’t for the faint of heart.

And I am no longer willing to ignore them. Not even when my family, and my best friend, tell me to keep quiet about what’s happening. They say people will think I’m crazy.

Maybe I am.

But the spirit haunting my professor’s house is definitely trying to tell me something, and I’m the only one who can see it.

The one person who can help me is my best friend’s brother. But I don’t know if I can trust him or his friends. Or if I can step outside the protective bubble I’ve built around myself.

At this point it’s a toss up: the ghosts will kill me or my panic attacks will.

Either way, I figure I’m going to die.

This bundle includes The Grimm Cases books one through three, the Home novella, and bonus scenes from the guy’s point of view.

*Reader Warning: The Grimm Cases deals with the psychological aftermath of character trauma and abuse, although nothing graphic happens within the time-frame of the book. Please keep that in mind when you begin the series.

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A Conventicle of Magpies by LMR Clarke

A Conventicle of Magpies
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We are thrilled to share this amazing new book! A Conventicle of Magpies is the first book in the Bloodskills duology, and today we have an exclusive excerpt for you and a chance to win a signed copy of the book!

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A Conventicle of Magpies

Rating: 4/5 stars

Genre: Gaslamp Fantasy, Adventure, Steampunk

Publication Date: January 6th, 2021

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Rook is a thief, and entirely unapologetic about it as she’s determined to do anything to ensure her mother and siblings survive the squalid and dangerous streets of Stamchester.

Rook slips in and out of the homes of the ruling elite of Stamchester, the Avanish,like a shadow taking what she needs without regret.

Why should she? Had the Avanish not stolen her own people, the Saouiasei, from their own homes years before and transported them across the ocean to Stamchester to work as virtual slaves?

And, now the Avanish had no more use for Rook and her people, where they not determined to dispose of them?

The Avanish had already laid waste to a swathe of Saouiasei homes, a region which had become known as ‘The Scar’, in an attempt to drive them out?

However, Rook was not the only person hiding in the shadows. A far more dangerous figure was haunting the filthy streets of Stamchester striking fear into Avanish and Saouiasei alike; Billy Drainer, a serial killer who not only murdered his victims but drained them of every ounce of their precious, life giving blood.

For within blood was a highly sought after commodity, the ability to enhance a person’s natural abilities through the art of Bloodskill. To be faster and stronger than a normal person was something those with money were willing to pay handsomely for.

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‘A Conventicle of Magpies’ is a fast-paced gaslamp fantasy adventure set in a Victorian-inspired world. Perfect for fans of Charlie N. Holmberg’s Spellbreaker and Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

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About the Author

I’m LMR Clarke, though you can call me Rain, and I’m a writer from Northern Ireland. I’m thirty-something, a parent, and a teacher. I love books and I also draw.

I’m an enby (non-binary) and am still finding my way! My stories are all about identity and acceptance, and trying to find your place in the world.

LMR Clarke| Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube

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Wolf’s Curse by Kelley Armstrong

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pages: 292

Series: Otherworld: Kate and Logan, Book 1

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Shapeshifters

Publication Date: March 19, 2020

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Warning: there are spoilers in this review for the series that take place in Armstrong’s Otherworld universe. 

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Growing up as the twins of the werewolf Alpha, Kate and Logan expected the “supernatural teen leadership conference” they’d been forced into to be boring and political. Instead, they find themselves taking a crash course in real life leadership.

Check out the first book – Wolf’s Bane.

Hell hounds outside; hell house inside. What more could we ask for? Human skulls nailed to the ceiling, apparently.

Kate, Ch. 1

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This is the second book in the duology, and I absolutely adore that it reads more like 1 book split in half than two stories stuck together. It made the world flow incredibly smoothly. If you have the chance to, I highly recommend reading these books back to back as this book picks up right where Wolf’s Bane ends. The main characters and their friends remain trapped in the dark witch’s cabin, needing to figure out how to escape with their lives.

As an extreme Kelley Armstrong fan, I knew I was going to like what I read in this story. I loved getting to read about the next generation from the Women of the Otherworld series. I loved that we got to read more about the experiments that were the plots of the Darkest Powers (beginning with The Summoning – review here) and Darkness Rising (beginning with The Gathering – review here) series. While there were minor character appearances from these series, and we get to hear very briefly about the main cast from the stories, I loved getting to experience this world with different characters that we, as readers, didn’t know beforehand.

I’d recommend reading this duology after you’ve read the other books in this world. While the stories themselves stand apart, if you go into the duology blind you’re going to end up missing out on a lot of context clues and references to Armstrong’s earlier writings. It may seem like a lot of reading before getting to this duology – 13 main books in the Otherworld series, multiple companion collections, 2 trilogies with their own short stories – but I promise it’s worth it. Having those stories in your mind going into this read will make the experience much smoother.

That being said, I truly did enjoy this duology as its own thing. Already being familiar with this world, I enjoyed the new aspects that Armstrong has thrown in here. Getting to read the development of the world and how the different stories interact with each other only heightened my enjoyment of the read. The idea of a leadership camp for supernaturals is an interesting one. Though this story focuses on how that can go awry, it was interesting to see team building exercises brought towards the occult and supernatural.

Something I’ve always enjoyed about this world and Armstrong’s writing is how she takes on the divide between supernatural races. There are clear parallels in her stories to the way our own world works. Not every supernatural race gets along with each other and some of these biases run deep. For example, sorcerers and witches can recognize each other by simply making eye contact. As these races have not gotten along in centuries, it leads to much fighting upon meeting. (Though I’ll let you make the real life comparison yourself there…)

Another example is the bias that most supernatural races have against werewolves and vampires. They generally consider these races to be brutes and not as intelligent as the other races. While my anthropological background brings a lot of real world examples to mind, I’m going to once again leave it up to you to make your own connections here. It’s not that hard, is it?

On top of the blatant parallels that Armstrong does a fantastic job writing, she has a way with words that helps bring her characters to life. If you’ve been around my blog for a while you’ve probably noticed the abundance of Armstrong reviews I’ve written. If you’re new here, I highly recommend checking some of them – and her works – out for yourself. Check out some of the reviews here: Bitten; The Summoning; The Gathering; Omens; The Unquiet Past; Exit Strategy; Wolf’s Bane.

The main reason that I’ve got so many Armstrong reviews is because of how real she makes her characters. Kate and Logan truly seem like teenagers. Each has their own baggage. Each is impacted by the lives of their parents’ generation and attempting to fit into high school society. Each has their own likes and dislikes, preferences and pet peeves. They’re characters who have depth to them. They don’t merely feel like 2D characters on a page.

I went into this read knowing that I’d end up being a little biased as I read through things, as I’m in love with not only Armstrong’s writing itself but the world that this story takes place in. So, keeping that in mind, if you’d like to hear my opinion on the story keep reading. Though be warned, this review is filled with spoilers.

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Dangerous Beauty by J.T. Geissinger

Rating: 2.5/5 stars Dangerous Beauty

Length: 264 pages

Series: Dangerous Beauty, Book 1

Genres: Romance, Contemporary, Suspense, Adult

Publication date: March 26, 2019

 

“It’ll be simple,” they said. “Just observe and report,” they said. Your first op, Naz, will be a walk in the park. Get a tan while you’re down there. Drink some beer. Make some easy money by spying on a Russian oligarch’s spoiled runaway wife.

Easy. Sure. Except apparently everyone, including her husband, underestimated this broad to a laughable fucking degree.

(Ch. 2, Naz)

Former Special Ops military man and bodyguard Nasir starts his new job thinking that it’s going to be a piece of cake. All he needs to do is trail a Russian mobster’s runaway wife in Mexico, enjoying the sun while observing and reporting back. The job comes with only one simple rule: don’t get too close. Yet it’s all Naz can do to not watch her every move. 

Evalina, on the other hand, believes she’s escaped her tormentor to live an untraceable life. Yet Eva knows there’s something that can’t be ignored about the dark, muscled stud who rescues her from a drug gang. Especially when they run into each other time and time again. Eva might have been spurned in the past but the mystery man might just show her that it’s okay to trust someone. 

 


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Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Rating: 4.5/5 stars Stalking Jack the Ripper

Length: 337 pages

Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper, Book 1

Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Mystery, Historical, Horror

Publication date: September 20, 2016

 

 Without lifting his head from his own journal, he said, “Not having any luck figuring me out, then? Don’t worry, you’ll get better with practice. And, yes” – he grinned wickedly, eyes fixed on his paper – “You’ll still fancy me tomorrow no matter how much you wish otherwise. I’m unpredictable, and you adore it. Just as I cannot wrap my massive brain around the equation of you and yet adore it.” 

(Ch. , p. 66)

Audrey Rose, seventeen years old, was born the daughter of a lord into the life of luxury. Yet between the tea servings and silk dress fittings she hides a dark secret: she often slips away to her Uncle’s lab to practice the gruesome forensic sciences.

When her work on savagely murdered corpses sets her on the path of a serial killer, Audrey find herself searching for clues close to her own sheltered world.

 


 

The first time I read this book, it had just come out. I adored it right away. Years passed and I picked up the second and third books in the series – Hunting Prince Dracula and Escaping From Houdini. Yet enough time had passed that I felt the need to reread Stalking Jack the Ripper before I continued on with the series.

For some reason, I thought that each story followed a different main character as they solved some of the biggest mysteries of all time. Thankfully I read the synopsis of Hunting Prince Dracula and realized my mistake. I wasn’t ready to give up Miss Audrey Rose just yet. Now knowing that she remains the main character throughout the series, I look forward to reading more about her and the mayhem she surrounds herself with.

One of the things that I loved the most about this story is how Audrey Rose isn’t afraid to be herself. Knowing that society looks down on women in general – let alone one that’s intent on learning forensic sciences – I’m glad to see that she never let society break her spirit. Especially since it seemed quite intent to do so at times. Instead, Audrey Rose continues to be true to herself and is willing to face any consequences of her actions.

As someone who’s not the biggest fan of Historical Fiction novels, I’m glad that I love this world as much as I do. Victorian England is a time in history that I’ve always been fascinated by and I do love seeing a strong female lead in this time period. The fact that this strong female lead was trying to solve the crime of the century – one I’ve been intrigued by for years – was just an added bonus.

Maniscalco does an amazing job at setting up a vibrant world with extraordinary characters. Her characters feel real; their emotions and motivations clear from the very beginning. Even when things are happening behind the scenes to characters, it’s clear that things aren’t always as calm and clear cut as they might seem.

Add to the list the real period photos interspersed in the story, and this novel becomes a well rounded piece of media. I found the pictures to be a great way to situate myself in the world of this book, to get myself as close to Audrey Rose’s head space as possible. I’m not always the biggest fan of photos being thrown into a story at random times, but Maniscalco did an amazing job at placing the photos at the most opportune time.

If you’re interested in Young Adult Mysteries, I’d highly recommend checking this story out if you haven’t done so already. I truly believe that this is a strong first book to the series. Knowing that it was Maniscalco’s debut novel impresses me all the more.

 


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Return Addresses by Michael A McLellan

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Welcome to the blog tour for Return Addresses by Michael A. McLellan! This book is getting loads of 5 star reviews! Find out why! Read on for an excerpt and a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card!


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Rating: 4/5 stars

Length: 278 pages

Series: N/A

Genres: Contemporary Fiction

Publication date: April 13, 2020

Publisher: Mountain Press


“This ain’t your world. You don’t have any friends out here. Not real ones. No one out here cares about nothin’ but where their next drink or fix is comin’ from. That, or they were born too messed up in the head to even understand what friendship is. Remember that. You can’t trust anybody. You can’t rely on no one but yourself.”

Fourteen-year-old Sean Pennington never thought he’d find himself riding on an open train car in the middle of the night. He never thought he’d find himself alone. He never thought he’d be running for his life.

In the spring of 2015 Sean Pennington’s world of comfort and privilege is shattered and he becomes a ward of the state. Thrust into a broken foster care system, he discovers the harsh realities of orphanhood. Lonely, confused, and tormented by his peers, he runs away, intending to locate his only living relative; a grandfather he’s never met, who his only connection with is a return address on a crumpled envelope. Enter Andrea, a modern day hobo Sean meets at a California homeless encampment. Andrea travels the country by rail, stowing away on shipping container cars with other transients calling themselves traveling kids. Though battling her own demons, road-savvy Andrea promises to help Sean on his quest, but can she protect him from the unpredictable and often violent world she lives in?

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The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

Rating: 3.5/5 stars The Princess and the Fangirl

Length: 320 pages

Series: Once Upon a Con, Book 2

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT, Retelling

Publication date: April 2, 2019

 

Minerva cracks open an eye when she hears us approach. “Ah, so my prodigious progeny returns,” she purrs, although there’s only one prodigious child between us, and it’s not me. “Did you save the world or did you get lost?”

“Both?” I glance at Milo.

“Both,” he agrees.

“Both is good,” we say together.

(Ch. 4 (Imogen), p. 43)

Imogen Lovelace is your typical fangirl on a mission to save her favourite character from being killed off. The problem is the actress playing her doesn’t want to reprise her role. If this year’s ExcelsiCon isn’t her last, Jessica Stone will consider her career derailed.

When a case of mistaken identity throws Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. Yet when the script for the Starfield sequel gets leaked, all signs point to Jess and she must turn to Imogen to find the person responsible. As these “princesses” race to find the script leaker, they need to learn how to rescue themselves from their own expectations and learn what it means to live happily ever after.

 


 

My first thought when I started reading this book was that Geekerella could have lived forever as a standalone and I would’ve been happy. I’m more than happy to say that Poston changed my mind on this and I found myself enjoying this read. Sure I didn’t love it as much as I adored Geekerella when it first came out, but I’m always happy to fangirl with others. Since Anime North – the convention in Toronto, Ontario I go to every year with my best friend – was cancelled this year due to quarantine, I gladly jumped into this fantastical convention in its place.

I knew I was going into this read with a favourite retelling of The Prince and the Pauper so I tried not to judge this read too harshly. (If you’re curious, yes Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper is still the best retelling of this story to be made.) I’ll be the first to admit that I couldn’t help but compare the two retellings from time to time, though I tried not to let this taint my experience in this story.

Overall I found The Princess and the Fangirl to be an enjoyable read. It’s not the most poetic or scholarly read I’ve ever read, but it doesn’t try to be. This book promises a fun read with a lot of nerdy stuff thrown into the mix and that’s exactly what it delivers. If you go into this read expecting a fun, nerdy read you won’t be disappointed.

This book covers a wide variety of fandoms and I was excited to see one of – if not my top – favourite fandoms represented throughout this story. If you’ve read the story and are wondering who that character with the umbrella is that’s mentioned, I would highly recommend you check out The Adventure Zone by the McElroy family. This is my favourite podcast of all time (but all of their podcasts are great) and so far two graphic novels have been released based on the events of this story – Here There Be Gerblins (review here) and Murder on the Rockport Limited (review here). I was absolutely thrilled to find all the hidden nods to this series thrown in.

In fact, my favourite nods to fandoms were the ones that Poston threw in subtly. While most of the fandoms were simply mentioned – Harry Potter, Yu Gi Oh!, etc – it was nice to see more subtle nods in the story. That being said, I would have loved a list of fandoms to be at the end of the book. The nerd in me would love to have seen the list and given the chance to go through the book as a sort of scavenger hunt of nerdom.

I could continue to gush forever about the fandoms mentioned in this story, but that’s not the main point of this story. If you know the story of The Prince and the Pauper then you know the bare bones of this story. The characters and the meat of the story are what make it unique.

I believe that Poston did a great job at making this story its own. It stands apart from the other retellings of this story I’ve read – not only because it’s a modern retelling or because it’s got a nerdy twist to it, either. Poston put life into this story and made it her own.

 


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Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Rating: 3/5 stars Little Fires Everywhere

Length: 338 pages

Series: N/A

Genres: Contemporary, Fiction

Publication date: September 12, 2017

 

“… She knew she couldn’t handle things.” Mia scribbled a hasty note in the corner of her drawing. “The question is whether things are still the same. Whether she should get another chance.”

“And do you think she should?”

Mia did not answer for a moment. Then she said, “Most of the time, everyone deserves more than one chance. We all do things we regret now and then, you just have to carry them with you.”

(Ch. 15)

Elena Richardson embodies the rule following nature of Shaker Heights, a progressive suburb of Cleveland. When Mia Warren – enigmatic artist and single mother to a teenage girl – rents a house from the Richardsons, all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo. When an old family friend attempts to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that drastically devised the town and leaves Elena and Mia on opposite sides of the divide.

 


 

Asian Readathon Challenges Met:

1. Read a book written by an Asian author: Ng is of Chinese decent.

4. Read a book recommended by an Asian: as this was the group book of the Readathon, it was suggested by Cindy in her 2020 Asian Readathon announcement video. 

5. *OPTIONAL* Read “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng and participate in the 7#LittleFiresReadalong and #LittleFiresWatchalong (more information below)

 


 

First and foremost, I learned that this book was not for me. I can understand its merit, but it is not the kind of book that I find myself falling into. It might be because Contemporary books aren’t my usual go to that I had a harder time connecting with this story, but I find myself pulling away from this idea as I’ve read Contemporary books that I’ve fallen in love with.

The characters felt real enough and the problems they faced were serious, yet I still didn’t find myself falling in love with the world or the story. I could empathize with the events going on but I never felt pulled into the drama or a real tug on my heart strings.

That being said, I can completely understand why some people might love this story. While I easily fall head first into lands of magic and dragons, others find comfort in things more realistic. Closer to what they expect from real life. This story held notes of realism and dealt with issues that still exist today, roughly 20-30 years after the time this book was written in.

I find it hard to explain why I felt so detached from this story without going into spoilers, so I’ll leave the spoiler free section here. If you want to read my in depth feelings about the story, continue on to the spoiler section below.

 


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