In the Jaded Grove (2021)

By Anela Deen
ASN/ISBN: B08YTGPGZS
Publication: April 15, 2021
Series: Kindred Realms #1

GOODREADS | AMAZON

Welcome to my leg of the tour for In the Jaded Grove by Anela Deen through Caffeine Book Tours (April 26 – April 30). I was elated to be selected to help promote such a beautifully written novel. Links to different sections are below, but also feel free to scroll on through.


DESCRIPTiON

Goodreads | Amazon

Cover Artist: Jenny Zemanek
Publisher: Fine Fables Press
Age group: New Adult
Genres: Fantasy

Simith of Drifthorn is tired of war. After years of conflict between the Thistle court and the troll kingdom, even a pixie knight known for his bloodlust longs for peace. Hoping to secure a ceasefire, Simith arranges a meeting with the troll king—and is ambushed instead. Escape lies in the Jaded Grove, but the trees of the ancient Fae woodland aren’t what they seem, and in place of sanctuary, Simith tumbles through a doorway to another world.

Cutting through her neighbor’s sunflower farm in Skylark, Michigan, Jessa runs into a battle between creatures straight out of a fantasy novel. Only the blood is very real. When a lone fighter falls to his attackers, Jessa intervenes. She’s known too much death to stand idly by, but an act of kindness leads to consequences even a poet like her couldn’t imagine.

With their fates bound by magic, Simith and Jessa must keep the strife of his world from spilling into hers—except the war isn’t what it appears and neither are their enemies. Countless lives depend on whether they can face the truths of their pasts and untangle the web of lies around them. But grief casts long shadows, and even their deepening bond may not be enough to save them from its reach.

On-page Representation:
Filipino (main character); secondary sapphic characters

Trigger and Content Warnings:
violence; trauma; grief; death of a loved one (in the past – not on page)


ABOUT THe AUTHOR

Author (Anela Deen)A child of two cultures, this hapa haole Hawaiian girl is currently landlocked in the Midwest. After exploring the world for a chunk of years, she hunkered down in Minnesota and now fills her days with family, fiction, and the occasional snowstorm. With a house full of lovable toddlers, a three-legged cat, and one handsome Dutchman, she prowls the keyboard late at night while the minions sleep. Coffee? Nah, she prefers tea with a generous spoonful of sarcasm. 

Website | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter


REViEW

**I received a copy of the book from the publisher and Caffeine Book Tours as part of my participation in the tour. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

In the Jaded Grove is a beautifully written fantasy. It’s fast-paced, sometimes a bit too quick for me, especially when I wanted to ruminate over certain scenes to decipher their meanings. One of the characters spoke my thoughts out loud about the brewing feelings between the leads, but I’m mostly convinced that the mechanism used to create the connection between the leads is a believable one. It’s either that or I’m just a sap, allowing myself to fall for anything that reasonably explains an instant connection.

Simith is our pixie hero from the fairy realm and Jessa is the human protagonist. Simith is jaded with a war that had no end in sight while Jessa’s grief has overtaken her. As the pieces of their lives are revealed through memories and their interactions with each other, a connection quickly begins forming. For someone quite ruthless in war, he’s gentle with her. Despite being so incredibly hard on herself, she’s understanding of his actions. The connection is so quick that there is hardly an emotional build-up, which made me hesitate about how authentic or real the connection was.

I liked the world created. Information is given about the fairy realm in pieces and at opportune times. While the fairy realm feels a bit under developed, there’s enough world-building to understand the current situation as well as to at least visualize the landscape. The magic system is not explained in-depth, but it doesn’t appear to be overly complicated. The apparent hierarchy among the creatures of the fairy realm is an interesting one, and I hope it gets further explored in additional books. I’m also interested in gaining a better understanding of the governing system that fully explains the fairy triad that is mentioned. (Why is there a triad? Did I maybe miss an explanation?) The book only just scratches the surface of a fascinating world and its connection to the human realm, possibly even other realms, so I am excited this is only the first book of a series.

I loved that I couldn’t guess what would happen at every turn, and there were unexpected moments that made me laugh. To top it off, Deen kept me turning the pages with her vivid descriptions.  For instance, referring to the night sky as the “cloak of souls” resonated with me and is now one of my favorites references for a sky awash with stars. Despite the quick pace and second-guessing whether I liked the relationship formed, it was these unexpected moments and the writing that helped to solidify why I ultimately enjoyed the book. While In the Jaded Grove doesn’t have nearly as much laughs, I think there are some parallels with G.A. Aiken’s Dragon Kin series and her newer series The Scarred Earth Saga. Individuals who have read and enjoyed either series may also enjoy In the Jaded Grove.

Anchored Hearts (2021)

By Priscilla Oliveras
ASN/ISBN: 9781420150193
Publication: April 27, 2021
Series: Keys to Love #2

**I received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Oliveras gives us a slow burn second-chance romance with leads who still have lingering feelings for each other. Anamaria is a firefighter medic with a burgeoning fitness business. Alejandro is a globe-trotting photographer guilted into returning home to his hometown to assuage his mother’s and his abuela’s concerns over his broken tibia. When they meet again–not through fate but the meddling of their mothers, which could be considered a kind of fate–it’s hard not to recall what they used to be to each other, especially when seeing one another instantly reignites emotions each long thought dissipated.

With second chance romances, the time apart is a pivotal element. Anamaria found herself during their separation, growing into the person she was meant to become. Staying in the Keys and close to family hasn’t stifled her growth but bolstered it, bringing with it an added confidence in herself and her goals. Now, she only needs to find the courage to seize the opportunities her hard work has created for her. Alejandro is an award-winning photographer, but when we meet him, nothing about him has changed very much except for his career accomplishments. Despite the twelve years apart, the emotional growth for him happens within the pages whereas Anamaria’s already done most of it outside of the book’s present timeline. Anamaria was mature enough to recognize what he is now only beginning to understand, that sometimes choices are not mutually exclusive. His situation was complicated by a father who had different expectations for him, which also further manifested into undue pressure from him on his relationship with Anamaria.

The love for family and the sense of place was soothing for me. The family dynamics were heartwarming, Alejandro and his father’s complicated relationship aside. I loved how family was a positive consideration as opposed to being viewed as a hindrance. Loving where you’re from was also seen as a positive attribute that I appreciated, and helped me to identify better with Anamaria’s character, leading me to like her character a lot more as compared to Alejandro.

I was generally not a fan of Alejandro. His selfishness and impatience largely contributed to their relationship’s demise when Anamaria just needed more time, something he was unwilling to give her. I’m not fully blaming him, but I also kind of am placing a lot of it on him…hahaha. Take that with a grain of salt since I’m fully on Anamaria’s side here. He couldn’t see beyond himself and his desires. It could be argued that Anamaria was the same, but she didn’t harbor the same kind of selfishness he did. She understood his desire to leave Key West and supported his endeavors. He wanted her life to revolve around him but was unwilling to do the same for her. Time apart, I guess, helped push him into a more mature individual even if he only just recognized it after returning home. (Hmm…maybe 12 years didn’t do as much I just wrote it did.)

Priscilla Oliveras’s writing flows so effortlessly, transitioning from the past to the present to feelings both old and new. I loved it. The descriptions are mesmerizing, and the longing between Anamaria and Alejandro over what was and the instances of what could have been packs a punch. I enjoyed the book a lot. It’s standalone, and Luis’s story is mentioned here whenever Luis and his love interest show up. You don’t need to read the first book to enjoy this one. I haven’t read the first book but may do so now because I enjoyed Oliveras’s writing so much.

The Forest of Stolen Girls (2021)

by Jane Hur
ASN/ISBN: 9781250229588
Publication: April 20, 2021

I was excited to read Hur’s The Forest of Stolen Girls. Some of my favorite dramas are set during the Joseon era so I was looking forward to reading a novel set during this period as well.

After learning about 13 girls all missing from the same village, Detective Min heads back to his old home to try to solve the case, but he also goes missing. Our protagonist is his 18-year-old daughter Hwani Min who refuses to believe her father is dead with only a scrap of his clothes found as confirmation of his death and not his body. She heads to Jeju Island to search for him.

Set during a time when women had limited agency, it was somewhat surprising that Hwani was given so much leeway throughout Jeju to search for him, but I liked the focus on strong women, especially Hwani. Hwani is a determined individual, quite stubborn actually. It’s also very clear from the beginning that she’s her father’s daughter. Throughout the book, Hwani is constantly looking over the evidence and list of suspects, trying to figure out what her father would do. She often refers to him as Joseon’s greatest detective and has lived her life trying to make him proud. Her belief in her father and her conviction that he is alive is so strong that I hoped as much as she does that he would be found alive.

While Hwani is the main protagonist, her younger sister Maewol plays a central role in the story. Their relationship is complicated because their vastly different relationships with their father. Hwani idolizes her father, whereas Maewol’s feelings are much more complicated–she is the daughter left behind. Maewol has different memories of their father, making it difficult for Hwani to reconcile what she knows and feels about her father with Maewol’s account of him. Hwani’s memory loss of a significant event further exacerbates the problem so there is a lot of tension whenever the sisters interact with each other. The focus on their relationship highlights how the story is more than just about searching for their father and solving the disappearance of girls from Nowon Village; it’s about grief and family.

The plot was interesting and well thought out. There are several red herrings throughout the book, just enough to make the reader question who the culprit might be. I read it the first time, eager to get to the ending, then I read it a second time to piece together the clues and to fully enjoy Hur’s writing prowess. It’s not just the plot, but the writing that makes this such a good read. One of my favorites is the first line of the novel, providing a hint of the beauty of Hur’s writing in the pages to come: “The screen of mist was thick around the red pinewood vessel, as though secrets hid beyond of a land I was not permitted to see.” The book is filled with vivid descriptions that make the setting and the story come alive. I would recommend this to those who appreciate a good mystery novel. Individuals who liked Firekeeper’s Daughter (2021) and are looking for another well-written mystery may enjoy this novel as well.

THAO (2021)

by Thao Lam
ASN/ISBN: 9781771474320
Publication: April 21, 2021


**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

This has been a year of so many great children’s books being published. THAO is one I immediately liked. On the surface, Thao is a simple story about having a name that is continually mispronounced but names hold a lot of power. Our identities are often intertwined with our names and have the ability to negatively affect us when no one seems to get it right; thus, the desire to have a name that is more familiar and easier to pronounce–I am speaking from personal experience. Individuals with unfamiliar names (and potentially even those with unconventionally spelled names) will be able to relate to Thao Lam’s story and will applaud the ending, which encourages individuals to be proud of their name and who they are.

My name was an unusual one in the area I grew up as well as spelled phonetically different from how it is pronounced, so it was hard to get my name write. I always hated the beginning of the school year and when we had substitutes. I desperately wanted to be called Victoria because I was obsessed with a TV show with a heroine named Victoria. I can empathize with Thao’s experience, but it took me a lot longer to be proud of my name. I adored the book and Lam’s illustrations and collages.

Malice (2021)

by Heather Walter
ASN/ISBN: 9781984818652
Publication: April 13, 2021

**I received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Malice is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Princess Aurora is still Princess Aurora but she is more than just a girl destined to be pricked by a needle. Aurora wants to be become Queen and has ambitious plans for her future reign. Until then, she is forced to keep searching for true love’s kiss to break the curse. The resident villain, on the other hand, isn’t so much a villain. Alyce is forced to work as a Grace. In Briar, Grace are blessed by fae with abilities such as wisdom or making people beautiful but she is different. Known as the Dark Grace, people fear Alyce yet they use her services for elixirs and hexes to put worts onto a face or ensure a competitor fails. All Alcye has ever wanted is to be accepted, but no one seems able to do that.

The book centers on Alyce’s development and her growth. Prominent in the story is her inability to trust, which is a double-edged sword. She wants to trust people, but she also second guesses the motives of everyone around her, even those she could trust. Of course, her suspicions are warranted because she’s always been forced to exist on the outskirts of society, which also contributes to low self-esteem and self-loathing.

While the story excels with characterization, the plot is on the slow side. Nothing much happens for pages except Alyce trying to figure out who she is and the fighting among the Grace. Every so often, I wondered when something might actually happen to push the story forward. Despite this, I was undeterred from finishing the book because I enjoyed Walter’s writing.

Walter takes the fairy tale and gives depth to the world and the characters inhabiting it. The story is rich in detail, especially in its world building. The bulk of information from the history of Briar to the magical system is largely concentrated at the beginning of the novel, feeling very much at times like an information dump, but it’s so fascinating that I didn’t mind. I’m looking forward to learning more about the lands and the inhabitants, both past and present, in the next book.

Overall, the book is maleficent magnificent. I found myself sympathizing with Alyce, although I was also often frustrated with her decisions. Fans of fairy tale retellings, especially those that enjoy origin stories, will enjoy reading Malice, but it may not be for those who like a faster paced novel. If readers can overcome the pacing, the ending will certainly be rewarding–it was so good.

The Sharey Godmother (2021)

by Samantha Berger
Illustrated by Mike Curato
ASN/ISBN: 9781250222305
Publication: April 13, 2021

**I received a copy of the book from the publisher. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own. **

Shari T. Fairy, the Sharey Godmother, is a godmother I can get completely behind! Shari loves to share, from her lunch to the cake she likes to bake and decorate. When her friends begin to question what she gets in return, she also begins to wonder what might happen if she stopped sharing. Shari realizes it’s not what she gets in return; sharing is just part of who she is. I love the message the book conveys. The illustrations are charming, with a mix of drawings and photos, add to how endearing the book is. (**GIVEAWAY**)

As my nieces like to say, “SHARiNG IS CARING.

Tacos_sharing

Sharing for the sake of sharing is what underlies The Sharey Godmother. I am always sharing food! I love food…and so does the rest of the family.  It doesn’t happen only during special occasions. The family shares food throughout the year, whenever it’s an “I made this dish that you have to try” or an “I made your favorite dish” kind of day. We usually pack it up and drop it off. (It’s just about an everyday type of thing.)

Laab_sharing

When we share tacos (my weakness are pickled purple onions added on top) or laab (the more herbs and the sourer it is, the merrier), it’s never about what we’re getting in return. We are always genuinely sharing our love for one another. Just as it is for Shari the Sharey Godmother, sharing is a part of who we are, and there is joy that comes with it.

GIVEAWAY

In sharing the “love,” you have the opportunity to win a finished print copy of The Sharey Godmother (US/Canda Only). You don’t have to sign-up or subscribe to anything unless you want more entries. You can enter the Rafflecopter below. If the widget isn’t showing up, you can also enter by clicking here. The giveaway ends 04/30/2021 at 12 AM PST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Mercurial (2021)

by Naomi Hughes
ASN/ISBN: 9781736394304
Publication: March 16, 2021

**I was received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Tal, his sister Nyx, and Elodie/The Destroyer are the main characters, and chapters are told in the third person from each of their perspectives. Tal questions his faith when his visions reveal that he will save The Destroyer and the kingdom but his oath to protect her has only led to more blood on his hands. Determined to free her brother from his oath, Nyx is intent on killing The Destroyer. The Destroyer has killed many innocent people to protect her sister’s reign. When she loses her memories and powers, she transforms into someone different from The Destroyer everyone knows but is she still worth saving?

  • Mercurial is reminiscent of classic medieval fantasy novels, but also felt surprisingly fresh. It has a unique magic system, which particularly stood out to me. Blood that is infused with metal determines an individual’s powers. For instance, those with silver in their blood have the ability to foresee the future whereas those with copper have healing powers. Being born with metal-infused blood also makes one prone to a rust disease.
  • Hughes mentions in her acknowledgments that she wrote Mercurial during a time in which she was trying to “renavigate [her] own faith.” The exploration of religion is integral to the plot with Tal’s struggle with his decisions and their consequences as the platform for this analysis. Rather than view it as inherently good or bad, it is a more analytical approach, questioning such things as what it means to adhere to one’s faith or the interpretation of religious texts.
  • My favorite books are those with strong female protagonists, so while Tal is interesting, I liked how the book had both Nyx and Elodie. I was mostly invested in Elodie, who ultimately became my favorite character. When The Destroyer lost her powers and became Elodie, I felt helpless and vulnerable alongside her. Hughes did a wonderful job with Elodie’s arc, asking whether redemption is possible for someone who has committed so many atrocities.
  • Other than the twist already detailed in the description, I was never quite sure about what to expect next. At times I thought I knew where the book was going, but it would veer in a different direction. It kept me riveted, trying to guess what would happen next. I had a difficult time suppressing the urge to flip to the end.

Mercurial‘s exploration of faith, redemption, and the power of love felt relatively new when compared to all the books I’d been reading. The plot was well-developed, and Tal, Nyx, and Elodie were rounded characters. I hadn’t heard much about the novel before finding it on NetGalley and am thankful I was provided the opportunity to read it. I look forward to reading more from Hughes.

Something’s Wrong! A Bear, a Hare, and Some Underwear (2021)

by Jory John
Illustrated by Erin Kraan
ASN/ISBN: 9780374313883
Publication: March 23, 2021


**I was provided a copy of the book by the publisher. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own (and that of my nieces).**

BearandUndewear

At first, it’s not quite clear what exactly is going on. The cover and the title will surely make you raise your eyebrows. We have a bear and some underwear, so of course something is wrong. Even all the other animals are wondering why there is a bear with some underwear. The kids found it hilarious! A bear…with UNDERWEAR?! They knew exactly what was wrong! It’s not until the hare that everything becomes clear. It’s a cute book with lovely illustrations. The bear and his underwear that even has a place for his tail…heh. The ending of the book is not only funny but underlines the importance of friendship. Even adults will smile at the truth of it.

Into the Crooked Place (2019)/City of Spells (2021)

by Alexandra Christo
Series Review

**Includes spoilers for Into the Crooked Place.**

**I was provided copies of both books through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed them. All opinions are my own.**

intothecrookedplace_cover

Into the Crooked Place
ASN/ISBN:  9781250318374
Publication: October 8, 2019


Into the Crooked Place (2019) invites readers into a gritty underworld through the eyes of four individuals: Wes the underboss of Creije with eyes and ears everywhere; Tavia the busker with a moral code; freedom fighter Saxony who is hiding among crooks; and warrior Karam who serves as Wes’s bodyguard. Christo has crafted a bleak world where the only thing you can trust is that the people around you are more than willing to betray you. The authorities, with few exceptions, are just as untrustworthy as the crooks they are meant to police. When Wes enlists Tavia, Saxony, and Karam, to help protect the city he loves, it’s unclear whether they can truly trust one another.

The book switches between the four main characters, interspersed with chapters told from the point of view of a few minor characters. Through their chapters, we learn about their motivations, their regrets, and their plans. We also get to see the lies they tell each other. With the book switching between the four, I didn’t feel connected to any of them, although I did gravitate toward Tavia as my favorite character. While I enjoyed the first book in the duology, it’s very much an introduction from the characters to the world, so it’s not as exciting as it could be. It’s easy to see the book is building to something possibly bigger that can’t be contained in a single volume. The ending makes up for a somewhat slow start.

cityofspells_cover-1

City of Spells
ASN/ISBN: 9781250318404
Publication: March 9, 2021

City of Spells (2021) is the exciting conclusion to the duology. The loss of Wes is more detrimental than expected. Tavia was said to have been the glue, but Wes was the mastermind. While Wes is left to fend for himself, Tavia, Karam, and Saxony are forced to look for allies to help bring down the Kingpin.

Because the first book already introduced the world and our characters, City of Spells doesn’t require as much time setting up what will happen here. They have to find allies and take down the Kingpin. Although Tavia and Karam maintain their status as main characters, I couldn’t help but feel they were, in many ways, relegated to the background in favor of Wes and Saxony. Karam doesn’t get to do as much except try to maintain peace between Saxony and Tavia. I wish there had been more chapters for Tavia but she doesn’t have as much to do here either so those things feed into each other. Of course, that could just be me being partial to her and wanting more pages allotted to her.

Despite a fairly straight-forward plot, there are enough twists and revelations in the book to ensure readers forge ahead; I couldn’t put it down once I got through the beginning. I can’t help but praise Christo for the ending of City of Spells: it was so good, maybe even better than the one for Into the Crooked Place.

Overall, the duology is a good read with edge of your seat action as each book heads toward their individual conclusions. There is enough world building to make Creije come alive. With a focus on the underbelly of the city, it’s difficult to fully realize the entire Creije society, its governing system, and the rest of the realms. There were times when a sense of place was missing for me. Even though both books have points where the story slows down or drags just a bit, Christo makes up for it with explosive endings–she excels at them. I was impressed with the endings for both books. Also, I don’t really talk about it for fear it might be spoilery but there is also romance and yes, I liked it. It’s only a small part of both books and doesn’t distract from main story.

Firekeeper’s Daughter (2021)

by Angeline Boulley
ASN/ISBN: 978150766564
Publication: March 16, 2021

Thank you for joining me on the last day of the blog tour for Firekeeper’s Daughter! If you’re interested in hopping over to check out what other reviewers had to say about the book, I’ve included the tour list below. Also, Firekeeper’s Daughter is a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, so that’s exciting!


Now, let’s take a moment to appreciate the teasers for the book.

Teaser #1
Teaser #2
Teaser #3

REVIEW


**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Firekeeper’s Daughter is the story of a young biracial Ojibwe woman who must carry the weight of protecting her community after being asked to become an informant in a federal investigation that has the potential to tear it apart. I was left with a mix of feelings after finishing the novel, ranging from heartbreak to empowerment to grief, and even more committed to why we need more books from authors of color like Angeline Boulley.

I don’t normally read thrillers or crime-solving novels, but I like watching them. With its focus on solving crime, I was reminded of Veronica Mars–a show I loved and thought was cut short. Daunis is a smart and savvy 18-year old trying to solve crimes associated with a murder in her community; she wants to protect the people she loves. Daunis’s crime solving prowess is centered around the scientific method approach–drawing conclusions from the world to form a theory, which will then inform hypotheses that can be tested to provide evidence to support or not support the theory? Uh, yeah, I am all for this! There is a lot to digest in the beginning, with a few instances when the story becomes a bit convoluted, but it evens out a bit as the story continues. While it was slow to start, I eventually became fully immersed in the novel and Daunis’s life. Granny June was hilarious and quickly became one of my favorite characters. I loved the relationship Daunis had with many of her elders–it even made me teary. I enjoyed the richness of the culture, the respectful way in which it was presented, and the inclusion of so many stories, words, and phrases. Boulley seamlessly incorporates all these elements into the novel.

The general “whodunit” plot is as straightforward as it can be with just about anyone’s guess about who is involved, but there are so many more layers to the novel. Ultimately, it was these layers I liked reading the most. I connected with multiple themes in the book, which helped me to easily identify with Daunis’s character despite not identifying as either biracial or indigenous.  Many of her struggles are culturally cross-cutting, and I found parallels to my own life and my relationship with my cultures, including the need to keep worlds separate from one another and trying to find a sense of belonging in both places. I especially liked how unabashedly Boulley touched on the internal conflict Daunis faced in trying to determine what it meant to protect her community and how much to reveal to people who are not part of it. Boulley concludes that members of the community have the right to decide how much to share. You have the power to protect your story and your culture from those who might try to exploit it, twisting it for their purposes, and those with seemingly good intentions must especially try to understand the implications of their actions before doing anything. As Daunis states, “I’m the only one thinking seven generations ahead.”

Firekeeper’s Daughter is an example of why we need more diverse books, especially by authors of color, why we need people from our communities telling our stories. While I do not identify as biracial or indigenous, I connected to the story on multiple levels, as if many of my similar struggles were being laid bare. Authors of color understand the complexities, the intricacies that cannot be easily captured through the lens of someone just looking in. Boulley deftly explored multiple themes, including culture, acceptance, grief, and trauma, as only someone who identifies with the community she writes might be able to–I also highly recommend reading reviews by indigenous individuals who will be able to provide insight into whether this is the case or not. Individuals who enjoy crime-solving mysteries like Nancy Drew and Veronica Mars will find pleasure in reading Firekeeper’s Daughter. BIPOC readers will especially appreciate the representation in the book.

A huge thank you to the publisher for also providing a finished copy.