Review: Bitter Medicine by Mia Tsai

Title: Bitter Medicine
Author: Mia Tsai
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy
Publication Date: March 14, 2023
Publisher: Tachyon Publications


In this xianxia-inspired contemporary fantasy, a Chinese immortal and a French elf navigate romance, family loyalty, and workplace demands. In her debut novel, Mia Tsai has created a paranormal adventure that is full of humor, passion, and depth.

As a descendant of the Chinese god of medicine, ignored middle child Elle was destined to be a doctor. Instead, she is underemployed as a mediocre magical calligrapher at the fairy temp agency, paranoid that her murderous younger brother will find her and their elder brother.

Using her full abilities will expose Elle’s location. Nevertheless, she challenges herself by covertly outfitting Luc, her client and crush, with high-powered glyphs.

Half-elf Luc, the agency’s top security expert, has his own secret: he’s responsible for a curse laid on two children from an old assignment. To heal them, he’ll need to perform his job duties with unrelenting excellence and earn time off from his tyrannical boss.

When Elle saves Luc’s life on a mission, he brings her a gift and a request for stronger magic to ensure success on the next job—except the next job is hunting down Elle’s younger brother.

As Luc and Elle collaborate, their chemistry blooms. Happiness, for once, is an option for them both. But Elle is loyal to her family, and Luc is bound by his true name. To win freedom from duty, they must make unexpected sacrifices.


The more I think about this book, the more I love it! There’s so many little details baked into these pages that really bring the story to life. I felt like I was watching an entire romantic saga unfold before me with xianxia magic from the East, faery lore from the West, family drama, action-packed fights and chases, and reflective moments of growth.

I loved so many elements of this story – the code-switching (English, Chinese, and French), the themes of consent and freedom, the quiet but surprisingly steamy romance, the steadfast loyalty through to the end. Elle and Luc have my entire heart and I adore them. They show such loyalty, even when beaten down, which is both their strength and weakness. The story shows them letting go of past mindsets and instead focuses on their growth together towards happiness. It’s such a fantastic book, but it’s really the intricacy of the storytelling that really helps to immerse you in their world and in the story.

There were two explicit scenes that surprised me. I know it’s an adult book, and the MCs are over 100 years old, and yet it felt sudden that there were explicit scenes between them and I don’t know why it surprised me so much. That being said, these scenes were so sweet and so full of love that it wasn’t even like sexy, it was romantic and cute, and I love them. But still. They took me by surprise haha.

As a whole, I definitely recommend Bitter Medicine if you’re looking for some light fantasy with a bit of drama and warm, fuzzy moments!

TW: racism, misogyny, sexual content, injury detail, blood, murder, toxic family, burnout; mentions war, death

Plot: 4.5/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Pacing: 4.5/5
Overall: 5/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.99/5

eARC gifted via NetGalley by Tachyon Publications in exchange for an honest review.

Review: On the Ravine by Vincent Lam

Title: On the Ravine
Author: Vincent Lam
Genre: Adult Literary Fiction
Publication Date: Feb 28, 2023
Publisher: Knopf Canada


In his downtown Toronto condo, Dr. Chen awakens to the sound of streetcars below, but it is not the early morning traffic that keeps him from sleep. News banners run across his phone: Fentanyl Crisis; Toxic Drug Supply; Record Number of Deaths. From behind the headlines, on the same screen, glow the faces of his patients, the faces of the what-ifs: What if he had done more, or less; or something different? Would they still be alive?

Claire is a violinist; she feels at one with her music, taking flight in its melody, free in its movement. But now she rises and falls with the opioids in her system, becoming increasingly reckless. After two overdoses in twenty-four hours, she sits in the blue light of her computer, searching a notice board for recommendations: my doctor saved my life; my doctor is just another dealer. And then another message catches her attention, about Chen’s clinic: be a guinea pig–why not get paid to take it?

When Claire’s life intersects with Chen’s, the doctor is drawn ever more deeply into the complexities of the doctor-patient relationship, the implication and meaning of his intention to treat. Chen must confront just how far he would go to save a life.

Combining the depth of his experience as a physician with the brilliance of his literary talent, Vincent Lam creates a world electric in its precision, radiant in its detail. On the Ravine is a gripping novel of profound emotional force, a soaring achievement from a singular voice in Canadian fiction.


I don’t think I’ve ever real a book with such real depiction of the push and pull of addiction, from both a medical professional’s POV and a drug addict’s POV. And as much as we want to root for both of them, there will always be that push and pull for both MCs as they carry on to the next chapter of their life.

Chen is a doctor who seemingly colours within the lines. He tries his best to help people with drug addictions, tries to push them to look towards the future and choose to leave their addiction behind them, but, like with all things, that’s easier said than done. Chen is a doctor who gives a lot of himself to the job. He’s happy when his patients kick the habit and go on to live their best lives, but he also gets stuck on the ones who die, asking himself what he could’ve done better, how he could’ve helped more. We see a lot of this reflective attitude from Chen throughout the novel, wondering where he went wrong, what other steps he could’ve taken or could still take.

From Chen’s POV, we get to see inside the life of a doctor who works with addicts, but also drug trials. It was such an interesting addition to the book, getting a peek behind the curtain to see how drug trials are run, how Varitas (the company he consults for) works, and how the trials themselves are run. And the bureaucracy of it all.

Claire’s POV on the otherhand is messy and sympathetic. She got med pains for an injury and proceeded to fall into addiction – needing harder stuff as tolerance wore out. Her story isn’t black and white and it’s heartbreaking to see the constant back and forth she has with addiction – the urgent need to stop, determination that she’s strong enough to stop, and the fall backwards and the step back. It was hard watching her journey alongside Chen as they worked to get her out of the cycle.

This book is a mix of informative, heartbreaking, and generally dark. There is a drug epidemic in Toronto that needs acknowledgment, and probably in other cities too. And there are people working towards helping addicts. This book is grounded in the reality of it all, the hard choices and the easy slips, and I respect the work that went into building this story, despite the difficulties of the subject matter.

At the end of the day, On the Ravine presents a realistic depiction of addiction and draws out the heartbreaking reality of how hard it is to get out of the cycle. Having both POVs of a medical professional and an addict allows for a sympathetic story for both sides that gets you thinking about the true humanity of people struggling with addiction and those trying to combat it.

All in all, this is such an important story, one I think will bring perspective to an urgent issue and will build sympathy and empathy for both sides of the coin.

TW: drug addiction, drug abuse, alcoholism, blood, racism, use of racial slurs, vomit, death, violence, homelessness; mentions suicide, suicidal thoughts, alcohol, murder

Plot: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 5/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Pacing: 5/5
Overall: 4.75/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.18/5

Finished copy gifted by Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler

Title: Cool for the Summer
Author: Dahlia Adler
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: May 11, 2021
Publisher: Wednesday Books


Lara’s had eyes for exactly one person throughout her three years of high school: Chase Harding. He’s tall, strong, sweet, a football star, and frankly, stupid hot. Oh, and he’s talking to her now. On purpose and everything. Maybe…flirting, even? No, wait, he’s definitely flirting, which is pretty much the sum of everything Lara’s wanted out of life.

Except she’s haunted by a memory. A memory of a confusing, romantic, strangely perfect summer spent with a girl named Jasmine. A memory that becomes a confusing, disorienting present when Jasmine herself walks through the front doors of the school to see Lara and Chase chatting it up in front of the lockers.

Lara has everything she ever wanted: a tight-knit group of friends, a job that borders on cool, and Chase, the boy of her literal dreams. But if she’s finally got the guy, why can’t she stop thinking about the girl?


This is definitely one of those books I wish I’d read earlier. I got the eARC for goodness sakes and yet here we are.

I enjoyed this story immensely. It’s messy and full of teen drama – worries over friendships, family, love, identity – but that’s part of its charm. So often we get LGBTQ+ books where the character is so sure of who they are. Established, in a sense. This truly felt like a seeking, curious, exploratory story about a girl who was unsure about her identity. I don’t LOVE how she treated people as part of that exploration process, but, being honest with myself, this is kind of the way teens figure things out.

Lara is great, she’s a bit lost, especially when she sees her summer fling appear at her school right when her dream boy starts paying attention to her. Understandable whiplash. I enjoyed seeing her discover a different side of herself in the THEN chapters, while she struggles with her own benchmarks she set for herself and everyone’s expectations in the NOW chapters. Lara is very much in her head for most of the book. She gets caught up in thought, even burning time in the real world as people catch her zoning out. So if you’re looking for something that’s full of self-discovery and self-reflection, this is the book for you!

I felt like Jasmine was a full fledged human, and even some of the summer friends had substance, but I was surprised how little development there was for Lara’s NOW life – her “reality,” where summer was away from all that. She doesn’t seem to be present with her friends much and Chase is a caracature of “nice.” I wish there had been more development there, as her independence and individuality also stems from those relationships.

Last thing I want to touch on was a weird comment or two when it came to a non-binary character. There were a few lines that made me uncomfortable, though I don’t know what kind of phobia it’d be classed under. Just a heads up for that.

This book is messy, full of should-I-shouldn’t-I’s, and a lot of unknowns and unsures. Definitely a book of exploration, curiosity, and fear of the unknown. It was great seeing Lara break out of herself over time and learning that her growth can’t fit back into the space she left behind before the summer. All in all, I enjoyed this and will definitely be checking out Adler’s other books!

TW: biphobia, underage drinking, parental divorce, toxic friendship

Rep: Ashkenazi Jewish MC, Sephardi (Syrian) Jewish bisexual MC, aroace secondary character, sapphic romance

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
World Building: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Pacing: 3/5
Overall: 3.5/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.8/5

eARC gifted via NetGalley by Wednesday Books via St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Love Wager by Lynn Painter

Title: The Love Wager
Author: Lynn Painter
Genre: Adult Romance
Publication Date: Mar 14, 2023
Publisher: Berkley


Hallie Piper is turning over a new leaf. After belly-crawling out of a hotel room (hello, rock bottom), she decides it’s time to become a full-on adult.

She gets a new apartment, a new haircut, and a new wardrobe, but when she logs into the dating app that she has determined will find her new love, she sees none other than Jack, the guy whose room she’d snuck out of.

Through the app, and after the joint agreement that they are absolutely not interested in each other, Jack and Hallie become partners in their respective searches for The One. They text each other about their dates, often scheduling them at the same restaurant so that if things don’t go well, the two of them can get tacos afterward.

Spoiler: they get a lot of tacos together.

Discouraged by the lack of prospects, Jack and Hallie make a wager to see who can find true love first, but when they agree to be fake dates for a weekend wedding, all bets are off.

As they pretend to be a couple, lines become blurred and they each struggle to remember why the other was a bad idea to begin with.


I adored Mr. Wrong Number. I never stopped laughing and I thought the characters were absolutely the best kind of chaotic.

The Love Wager didn’t hit those notes for me, unfortunately. Three things – I found both MCs to be self-absorbed and emotionally immature; the book felt like a bunch of tropes stacked in a haphazard pile; and, while the banter entertained me, their chemistry just wasn’t electric and alive for most of the book which took away from my investment in them.

Let’s start with the MCs. They’re fun – Hal is quirky, but cool, and Jack is seemingly the hottest man alive. They’re fun, they become friends, and it’s all good. Except Hal proved herself to be a terrible friend by avoiding telling her roommate she’s moving out, MOVES OUT, and then says her roommate won’t notice for a bit since the roommate owns all the communal furniture. Like???? And then the roommate is used as a plot device. Meh.

Then there’s Jack, who does something cruel and impulsive because he’s jealous and can’t figure out his own feelings and then spends the majority of book grousing about his feelings that he refuses to admit to Hal for some reason?? Blah.

This book, as a whole, felt formulated to hit those popular tropes. You could actively feel yourself passing each checkpoint like it was a Super Mario game and I hated it. It didn’t get me invested in the characters and it didn’t make me want to care about them more. It just frustrated me that two adults were just bopping through these tropey concepts that felt rote and forced.

Additionally, characters popped in and out to achieve plot points – there was a cousin/friend who popped in at the beginning and was never mentioned again until there was suddenly a family event and I’d forgotten all about him. The secondary characters were not fleshed out at all and they had zero personality except for what they could do to shove the MCs together.

Lastly, while the banter had it’s fun moments, I really didn’t feel that buzz between Jack and Hallie, especially on Hallie’s side. Yes, there was the physical tension, that was fantastic, but Hal’s feelings almost felt forced into love. I don’t know. It just didn’t feel right. There wasn’t that zing for me.

All in all, it’s a solid romance book, the pieces are all there, but I don’t think they were put together well enough to paint me the full picture. This could also just be that I’m tiring of books that rely too heavily on the tropes they hit (I feel like social media has contributed to this new wave of tropey books), but this just wasn’t for me.

TW: sexual content (a couple very open door scenes in the second half), alcohol consumption, countered misogynistic comments

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
World Building: 2.5/5
Writing: 4/5
Pacing: 1/5
Overall: 2/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.2/5

eARC gifted via NetGalley by Berkley Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Finally Seen by Kelly Yang

Title: Finally Seen
Author: Kelly Yang
Genre: MG Contemporary
Publication Date: Feb 28, 2023
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers


When ten-year-old Lina Gao steps off the plane in Los Angeles, it’s her first time in America the first time seeing her parents and her little sister in five years! She’s been waiting for this moment every day while she lived with her grandmother in Beijing, getting teased by kids at school who called her “left behind girl.” , her parents are ready for her to join their fabulous life in America! Except, it’s not exactly like in the postcards:

1. School’s a lot harder than she thought. When she mispronounces some words in English on the first day, she decides she simply won’t talk. Ever again.

2. Her chatty little sister has problem with English. And seems to do everything better than Lina, including knowing exactly the way to her parents’ hearts.

3. They live in an apartment, not a house like in Mom’s letters, and they owe a of back rent from the pandemic. And Mom’s plan to pay it back sounds more like a hobby than a moneymaker.

As she reckons with her hurt, Lina tries to keep a lid on her feelings, both at home and at school. When her teacher starts facing challenges for her latest book selection, a book that deeply resonates with Lina, it will take all of Lina’s courage and resilience to get over her fear in order to choose a future where she’s finally seen.


Finally Seen is probably my favourite Kelly Yang book yet. This is definitely one of those books that should be in every classroom, every library, and every home as it’s enriching, powerful, and important.

Our MC is Lina Gao. Five years ago, she was left behind in China with her grandmother as her parents and younger sister flew to America to start a new life. Lina finally gets the chance to be reunited with them in America, but it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows like she’s been led to believe. And living in America isn’t a walk in the park either.

This story takes place post-pandemic and shares some of the struggles of low-income and immigrant families, particularly pertaining to limited relief programs, job loss, and inflation. It was sad to see the stress and struggles that Lina’s family and their neighbours are going through as their back rent comes due.

Thankfully, the pandemic struggles were limited to that area. In terms of school, Lina dealt with old-school racism – sadly something that happens no matter the decade (though it’s very well countered in this story). When she first arrives in America, Lina’s English is broken through disuse and lack of practice, but she soldiers through despite her struggles with the language and the ridicule she experiences from her peers. As she learns more English, we get to see her appreciate diversity in books and understand how much courage it takes to speak your truth. I loved the impact that books and reading had on Lina, her family, and her friends, with this story also touching on the impact of banned books and removing diversity from the classroom curriculum.

As always, Kelly Yang touches on very relevant and important topics without the story being overwhelmed with over-explanation. Instead, there’s a strong focus on friendships, family relationships, and finding your voice. An absolutely pertinent story that I think everyone should take the time to read.

TW: bullying (countered), racism (countered), parental neglect, toxic masculinity (countered), gaslighting; mentions death of parent, death of grandparent, miscarriage, divorce

Rep: Chinese MC, own voices

Plot: 5/5
Characters: 4.5/5
World Building: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Pacing: 5/5
Overall: 5/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.58/5

ARC gifted by Simon and Schuster Canada and eARC gifted via NetGalley by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers via Simon and Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Review: 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston

Title: 10 Blind Dates
Author: Ashley Elston
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion


Sophie wants one thing for Christmas-a little freedom from her overprotective parents. So when they decide to spend Christmas in South Louisiana with her very pregnant older sister, Sophie is looking forward to some much needed private (read: make-out) time with her long-term boyfriend, Griffin. Except it turns out that Griffin wants a little freedom from their relationship. Cue devastation.

Heartbroken, Sophie flees to her grandparents’ house, where the rest of her boisterous extended family is gathered for the holiday. That’s when her nonna devises a (not so) brilliant plan: Over the next ten days, Sophie will be set up on ten different blind dates by different family members. Like her sweet cousin Sara, who sets her up with a hot guy at an exclusive underground party. Or her crazy aunt Patrice, who signs Sophie up for a lead role in a living nativity. With a boy who barely reaches her shoulder. And a screaming baby.

When Griffin turns up unexpectedly and begs for a second chance, Sophie feels more confused than ever. Because maybe, just maybe, she’s started to have feelings for someone else . . . Someone who is definitely not available.

This is going to be the worst Christmas break ever… or is it?


The dates are super fun, and I found myself smiling a lot to myself throughout the chaos. Sophie’s family is huge and loud and full of love and watching her find her way back to them was wonderful, but the dates truly brought everyone together. They were all so invested in her joy (outside of the evil Jo’s) and it was so heartwarming to see.

The pregnancy side story added a level of weight that surprised me both times I’ve gone through this novel. It has a happy end, but it does weigh heavily on Sophie through the story and it was an interesting addition to an otherwise fluffy book.

The one thing I wish this book had more of was time between Sophie and the end-game love interest. He’s definitely there, but more on the sidelines, and the book ends soon after their near HEA. While I loved their healthy approach to their relationship, I was disappointed to see there wasn’t a bit more.

All in all, 10 Blind Dates is a fun holiday read, with a slightly heavier subplot. It has a great HEA, and I really enjoyed reading it twice!

TW: toxic relationship, sexual harassment; mentions sexual content, pregnancy, and pre-mature birth

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
World Building: 4/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Pacing: 4/5
Overall: 4/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.01/5

eARC gifted via NetGalley by Disney-Hyperion via Disney Book Group in exchange for an honest review.

Review: When You Wish Upon A Lantern by Gloria Chao

Title: When You Wish Upon A Lantern
Author: Gloria Chao
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: Feb 14, 2022
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers


Liya and Kai had been best friends since they were little kids, but all that changed when a humiliating incident sparked The Biggest Misunderstanding Of All Time—and they haven’t spoken since.

Then Liya discovers her family’s wishing lantern store is struggling, and she decides to resume a tradition she had with her beloved late grandmother: secretly fulfilling the wishes people write on the lanterns they send into the sky. It may boost sales and save the store, but she can’t do it alone . . . and Kai is the only one who cares enough to help.

While working on their covert missions, Liya and Kai rekindle their friendship—and maybe more. But when their feuding families and their changing futures threaten to tear them apart again, can they find a way to make their own wishes come true?


I saw a few people DNF this book immediately because it had miscommunication trope, so I was so scared to pick it up. I’m happy to say that it’s not even close to miscommunication – more like poor timing. You immediately know why Liya and Kai are somewhat estranged, and it’s honestly an entertaining hiccup that led them to where they are. The only thing that blip resulted in, really, was mutual pining, which was adorable.

This story is a story of love – a dash of Romeo and Juliet (or Zhinü and Niulang) mixed with friends-to-lovers – but, as a whole, it’s a story about history, immigration, Chinese/Taiwanese culture, community, and tradition. Liya and Kai bop through the story as wish granters in an attempt to save Liya’s family’s store. Through their wish granting, they learn more about their community, people’s histories, and their immigration stories. I teared up a lot throughout this book both because of heartfelt, warm moments, as well as moments of grief, not just for the dead, but for the lonely and the lost.

I also related a lot to Liya’s unnamed anxiety and germaphobia. The way that old memories haunted her and impacted her actions was so similar to my experience with life. Like, this story didn’t have to come at me like that. The whole storyline with Stephanie was so perfectly executed and I loved the outcome of it all.

This book was so beautiful, and honestly felt like a warm hug for the most part. Gloria Chao hits it out of the park once more!

TW: Grief, bullying, vomit, toxic family, mentions death

Rep: unnamed anxiety and germaphobia

Plot: 4.5/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 4.5/5
Writing: 5/5
Pacing: 5/5
Overall: 5/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.99/5

eARC gifted via NetGalley by Viking Books for Young Readers via Penguin Group in exchange for an honest review.

Review: This Time It’s Real by Ann Liang

Title: This Time It’s Real
Author: Ann Liang
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: Feb 7, 2023
Publisher: Scholastic Press


When seventeen-year-old Eliza Lin’s essay about meeting the love of her life unexpectedly goes viral, her entire life changes overnight. Now she has the approval of her classmates at her new international school in Beijing, a career-launching internship opportunity at her favorite magazine…and a massive secret to keep.

Eliza made her essay up. She’s never been in a relationship before, let alone in love. All good writing is lying, right?

Desperate to hide the truth, Eliza strikes a deal with the famous actor in her class, the charming but aloof Caz Song. She’ll help him write his college applications if he poses as her boyfriend. Caz is a dream boyfriend — he passes handwritten notes to her in class, makes her little sister laugh, and takes her out on motorcycle rides to the best snack stalls around the city.

But when her relationship with Caz starts feeling a little too convincing, all of Eliza’s carefully laid plans are threatened. Can she still follow her dreams if it means breaking her own heart?


It is entirely likely that this book will be in my top 10 at the end of this year. The way Ann Liang navigates the sense of alienation as a part of the diaspora hit all the right notes that I found myself tearing up from simply feeling so seen and known by these fictional characters. I don’t know if this book changed my perspective of my existence, but it made me feel so many things that I have to give it all the stars.

To reduce this book down to its foundational tropes does this book a disservice. However, I did enjoy that the plot was based around fake-dating, and there was the sick bed trope nestled in there as well. It was a fun premise that helped to propel the story, but the heart of this book was the character and relationship development between Eliza and those around her.

Eliza is such a determined character. Lacking control in much of her life (her family moves a lot), she finds herself disconnected from her peers and lacking in friendships and human connection. So when she manages to get famous for her personal essay on dating her non-existent boyfriend because of the feelings of supposed authenticity she conveys through it, she doesn’t know what to do. Her dreams are right there – so she takes them. I loved her pragmatic thinking and I related to her sense of not belonging and feeling other in a place that should have felt like home. Similar to the author of this book, Eliza is able to write with such feeling and power and wonder over human connections that I couldn’t help but root for her to achieve her dreams, no matter the cost.

Caz was also fantastic. I loved his chemistry with Eliza and adored their interactions together. I wish we got to see more of that chemistry training, but every moment they were together, I felt the buzz between them and couldn’t get enough of it. He’s so sweet and guarded, but also confident in his acting and what he wants, and ugh, I adore him. I want to protect him as much as Eliza and the banter between them had me grinning like an idiot.

Again, the heart of this book is all about friendship, family, and building connections. It felt so authentic compared to a lot of the romances I’ve been reading lately, and that authenticity lent itself to my investment in the characters lives and their emotions and interactions. I also loved the author’s sentiment that she didn’t want this to be a book focused on race. Yes, that was a part of it, because of course you can’t take that experience away from them, but they were so well fleshed out that it was only a part of the many facets of their existence. At the end of the day, they were characters living out their lives and trying to chase happiness and it was balanced so perfectly that I wish more books like this existed.

Anyways, that was my overzealous stream of consciousness. Read this book if you love character-driven stories and books that can make you both laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. An absolutely standout read; I think Ann Liang just became an auto-buy author for me.

TW: racism, bullying, self-image discussions, injury detail

Rep: Chinese MCs, gay Chinese tertiary characters

Plot: 4.5/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Pacing: 4.5/5
Overall: 5/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.23/5

ARC gifted via Colored Pages Tours by Scholastic Press in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Buried and the Bound by Rochelle Hassan

Title: The Buried and the Bound
Author: Rochelle Hassan
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: Jan 24, 2023
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press


As the only hedgewitch in Blackthorn, Massachusetts—an uncommonly magical place—Aziza El-Amin has bargained with wood nymphs, rescued palm-sized fairies from house cats, banished flesh-eating shadows from the local park. But when a dark entity awakens in the forest outside of town, eroding the invisible boundary between the human world and fairyland, run-of-the-mill fae mischief turns into outright aggression, and the danger—to herself and others—becomes too great for her to handle alone.

Leo Merritt is no stranger to magical catastrophes. On his sixteenth birthday, a dormant curse kicked in and ripped away all his memories of his true love. A miserable year has passed since then. He’s road-tripped up and down the East Coast looking for a way to get his memories back and hit one dead end after another. He doesn’t even know his true love’s name, but he feels the absence in his life, and it’s haunting.

Desperate for answers, he makes a pact with Aziza: he’ll provide much-needed backup on her nightly patrols, and in exchange, she’ll help him break the curse.

When the creature in the woods sets its sights on them, their survival depends on the aid of a mysterious young necromancer they’re not certain they can trust. But they’ll have to work together to eradicate the new threat and take back their hometown… even if it forces them to uncover deeply buried secrets and make devastating sacrifices.


If you’re in the market for a lush, dark, fairy fantasy, this is the book for you.

I was absolutely surprised by how invested in the story and characters I became. I loved the found family vibes of the three leads and that we got to see everything from their different perspectives. Each POV was interesting, necessary, and drove the plot or characters forward and I loved it.

Aziza is a blunt and determined hedgewitch. She protects Blackthorn with her magic, sealing up openings to Elphame and sending fae back to their world of magic.

Leo is cursed. He very much has golden retriever energy and is extremely loyal. Joining up with Aziza to learn more about magic, he’s determined to find a way to break his curse.

Tristan – oh, Tristan. He was the lost soul of the story. He also had the darkest storyline – his coming out led to homelessness, he skirts of the line of dark magic, and there was a lot of dead people around him… he really got the short end of the stick there.

All three together, working off each other, really created a fantastic adventure. The world-building was amazing (though there was sometimes a little too much of it) and I loved seeing all the different type of fairies they encountered through the story – shades, nymphs, wind sprites, and more.

With the character too, there were some descriptions of their circumstances that were repetitive, which both helped to build on previous comments, but sometimes also made me want to skim them. Also, heads up, if you’re looking for a romance, this has romantic elements, but there isn’t even a kiss, so do with that what you will. There is some romantic lamenting, but I strongly suspect much of the romance will be in the next installment.

I loved how this book ended, and I am already looking forward to the sequel – this book ends satisfyingly, but there is a bit of set up for their next adventure and I’m so excited to see where it takes them.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this fantastical story. The world, the characters, and the magic of The Buried and the Bound had me enthralled from start to finish and I look forward to seeing what’s next!

TW: blood, dismemberment, death, murder, death by an animal (magic dogs), injury detail, torture (magic), gaslighting, self-mutilation, religious bigotry, fire/fire injury, mentions death of parents

Rep: Lebanese FMC, gay MMC, bi MMC

Plot: 4.5/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 4.5/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Pacing: 5/5
Overall: 4.5/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.39/5

eARC gifted via NetGalley by Roaring Brook Press and Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group via Colored Pages Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert

Title: Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute
Author: Talia Hibbert
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: Jan 3, 2023
Publisher: Joy Revolution


Bradley Graeme is pretty much perfect. He’s a star football player, manages his OCD well (enough), and comes out on top in all his classes . . . except the ones he shares with his ex-best friend, Celine.

Celine Bangura is conspiracy-theory-obsessed. Social media followers eat up her takes on everything from UFOs to holiday overconsumption–yet, she’s still not cool enough for the popular kids’ table. Which is why Brad abandoned her for the in-crowd years ago. (At least, that’s how Celine sees it.)

These days, there’s nothing between them other than petty insults and academic rivalry. So when Celine signs up for a survival course in the woods, she’s surprised to find Brad right beside her.

Forced to work as a team for the chance to win a grand prize, these two teens must trudge through not just mud and dirt but their messy past. And as this adventure brings them closer together, they begin to remember the good bits of their history. But has too much time passed . . . or just enough to spark a whole new kind of relationship?


Okay, pause for a second. This book was amazingly cute, the character growth was fantastic, the friendship/relationship building was top notch, and the banter had me laughing out loud. AND YET. I never wanted to pick up this book. I’d love it while reading it, but when I wasn’t my brain would be like, “Should we DNF it?” There was something about it that didn’t engage me despite all the elements I enjoyed and I just can’t put my finger on it.

That being said, I’m going to dive into all the amazing things about it since I literally don’t know what I’d criticize about it other than my vibe.

The character building was top notch. The way you start to see the cracks and then watch as the building comes tumbling down was how the characters developed. They got a total refresh as they ventured through the book and grew through their experiences, their relationships, and the major truths they were missing as they chased their dreams. I loved how realistically they grew around and with each other, all of them, not even just the MCs.

Also, the secondary characters are top notch. Like if Talia Hibbert decides to make this into a companion series, I’d read the heck out of Aurora’s love story. The Breakspeare crew was so much fun and I adored getting to know them.

I appreciated the family units as well, and how they impacted and reflected the way the characters interacted with the world. They felt real and good and loving, and ugh, I loved them too.

As a whole, I really loved this book – the characters, the world building, the growth. It all hit the right notes. But, there was something that was missing for me that is stopping me from rating this at the 5 stars I want to give it.

TW: bullying, injury detail, mentions parental divorce

Rep: MMC is Black, bi, and has OCD; FMC is black and has asthma; secondary character has celiac; dyslexic tertiary character; Black and OCD own voices

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Pacing: 4/5
Overall: 4/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.13/5

eARC gifted via NetGalley by Joy Revolution via Random House Children’s in exchange for an honest review.