Catching up on some ARC reviews today!
It’s a toss-up today of some I liked and some I didn’t but they all do have beautiful covers! Let me know if you’ve read any of these!
Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan
CWs: violence, blood, death, kidnapping, grief
A captivating debut fantasy inspired by the legend of Chang’e, the Chinese moon goddess, in which a young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm.
I’ve written about this one a few times on the blog as it was featured in one of HCC Frenzy’s events and I was absolutely taken by the cover. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy reading it as much as I thought I would.
The author has created a truly beautiful world, playing off the Chang’e legend and depicting this beautiful kingdom filled with gods. I did really like the author’s writing style and descriptions but this book is over 500 pages and it feels like it. The pacing is very, very slow and I was getting bored before I’d even reached the halfway point. There’s not much urgency or thrill in the story despite the MC originally setting out on an important mission. It felt like she forgot about the point of her quest and so we get the humdrum of life instead of any true adventures.
I will say that the book reminded me a lot of the labours of Heracles in its pacing, where there are several things he’s required to complete before he has actually completed the overall challenge. So perhaps if you think along those lines for Xingyin, the story won’t seem to drag as much.
The Summer of Bitter and Sweet by Jen Ferguson
Genre: YA Contemporary
CWs: sexual assault, racism, violence, fire
Lou has enough confusion in front of her this summer. She’ll be working in her family’s ice cream shack with her newly ex-boyfriend—whose kisses never made her feel desire, only discomfort—and her former best friend, King, who is back in their Canadian prairie town after disappearing three years ago without a word.
This was a really enjoyable read, a bit of a coming-of-age novel with the MC both figuring out her next steps after high school grad and in coming to terms with her sexuality, with tons of beautiful friends and family moments thrown in. That said, there’s a lot of trauma both directly in this story and referred to from the past so do take care when reading. The author has included an introductory letter that lays out content warnings so you can have a heads up before starting the book.
“‘You’re dressed like you’re going to a job interview. And it’s a job you don’t really want.'” (13)
One of the best parts of the book and that makes it such a great summer read is that Lou and her family run an ice cream shack! We get some insight into the wonderful and wacky flavours they come up with and I just wish it was a real place I could visit!
I would’ve liked if we could’ve gotten more interaction with the family as Lou explored her identity and including that familial support as she worked through some big questions, but it does make sense that this is only the beginning of Lou figuring things out so she’s not quite at the stage of reaching out to more people. Still a lovely story!
Café Con Lychee by Emery Lee
Genre: YA Romance | LGBTQ+
CWs: homophobia, racism
Between the Mori’s struggling shop and the Moreno’s plan to sell their bakery in the face of the competition, both boys find their dreams in jeopardy. Then Theo has an idea—sell photo-worthy food covertly at school to offset their losses.
This was another sweet story that also has some pretty heavy content warnings, particularly around homophobia in the story. There’s a lot of conflict in parental relationships and feelings of shame so do take care when reading!
This was an interesting premise, with two ‘enemies’ whose families own rival cafés teaming up when a new fusion café threatens both of their businesses. Overall it’s a sweet story and I felt it picked up for the better in the second half but it did feel awkward and clunky in the writing and characterization. I think the characters were smoothed out more by the second half so they didn’t read so much as caricatures. An enjoyable story with lots of delicious food, it just needed a little time to develop.
Any beautiful books that have hit the mark for you lately?
Cover images and blurbs from Goodreads.