Review: A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin

I admitted that I picked this book based on the cover. It is so pretty. Thankfully the book was good or I would have been super disappointed. Ning is from a small town but one day gets an invitation from the Palace to compete to be the new shennong-shi, a master of the art of magic and tea. If she wins and becomes the Palace’s shennong-shi it will bring her power she can only dream of but more importantly, it will give her access to cure to save her sister. Ning immediately gets caught up in Palace politics. The Princess is currently ruling as he Emperor is sick. Her cousin, the son of the banished Prince wants something but his motives are allusive. Others in court have their own agenda. Who can Ning trust? It’s a lot of back and forth as I doubted each character’s motives, convinced that they were the bad guys, only to be surprised at the end. Ning is definitely my favorite character. She is super smart but a little naïve. She is a little over her head when it comes to the machinations of court. Despite that, she is very resourceful and talented. She is able to move through the competition by using what she knows and being able to think on her feet. She often knows the smart thing is to walk away but the does the right thing and stay and help. This often gets her in trouble but also helps her find allies. I was really drawn to this book and sad, I have to wait until October for the sequels. I guess I should be grateful, I don’t have wait a year.

What I’m Reading Now: A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin

I am not going to lie. I picked this book because of the cover. I mean just look at it! It’s just so pretty!!

Beth’s Favorite 5 books of 2021!!

Well it was a year. I did read more books then I did last year but not anywhere near my pre-pandemic levels. But who is. I have found it harder to write reviews recently. You may have noticed. I’ll try to do better in 2022. Anyways, without further ado. These are top 5 favorite books of the past year. In order of which I read them.

  1. Stormbreak by Natalie C. Parker – I just loved this whole series of women pirates taking on the systems keeping society down. It was just one adventure after another and it a great ending. I highly recommend the whole series.
  2. The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeiine Boulley – This book is just so heartbreaking. What Daunis and her people have gone through is just so painful and yet the strength they processed is just amazing. Boulley’s writing is very striking. She doesn’t sugarcoat the experience her characters experience. Be aware. It does deal with sexual assault, drug use, racism and domestic violence.
  3. The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab – Addie Larue made a deal that she wanted to live her own life but in exchange no one remembers her. 300 years later, she finally remembers her and it seems like things maybe turning around but of course things are not as they seem. This book is such a rich book. Fantasy and historical fiction all in one. Loved it.
  4. The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee – Jo is lady’s maid. Not by choice but because her options are limited. When an opportunity presents itself to write an advice column under a secret identity she takes it. It gives her the freedom that she doesn’t have in day to day life. I loved reading about Jo because despite the card stacked against her she doesn’t give up.
  5. The Naturals series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes – I’m choosing this series as a whole since I read them all at once. It was recommended by a coworker and she knows her stuff. Cassie and her fellow Naturals are not your normal teenagers. They know how to read people and for that makes them useful to the FBI. I just got sucked into the mystery of this series and I was so happy that I waited to read it all at once.

What were your favorite books of the last year?

What I’m Reading Now: Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong

Okay this series is as good as everyone said it was.

What I’m Reading Now: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

I resisted reading this for a while despite the good reviews because the world doesn’t need another Romeo and Juliet story but maybe they do. So for it’s been pretty amazing.

What I’m Reading Now: Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson

I went looking for a new fantasy novel to read and this came up and I’m intrigued. I do like a good historical drama. Especially when you add magical elements to it.

What I’m Reading Now: Wayward Witch by Zoraida Cordova

Latinx Brooklyn witches. Yes please

Review: The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

Jo is a Chinese American living in Reconstructionist Atlanta in 1890. She wants to make her own way but being Chinese in the 19th Century America, her options are limited. When we meet her, she is fired from her hat making internship even though she is talented because clients feel “uncomfortable”. She is forced to go work as a ladies maid for spoiled rich girl who she worked for as a child and was often cruel to her. She lives in the basement of a house unbeknowst to the family who lives above them. They publish a local newspaper and well subscriptions are dwindling and they might have to fold the paper and move. Jo can’t risk them leaving and losing their home so she comes up with a plan to become their new “Agony Aunt” advice columinst. Her first couple of articles are instant hits thanks to her controversial takes on marriage and riding a bike among other things. It also helps her discover who her parents are and that’s a whole other story. This is such a lush book with so many great characters and details about reconstructionist south and the beginning of Jim Crow. It’s kind of a perfect storm in American history because while we see the South embrace segregation, we also see the beginning of the suffragist movement. In some ways, the fight for women’s vote worked hand in hand with segregationist movement and it’s kind of frightening how quick we regressed after the Civil War. It’s also a different look at race relations in America. We usually only examine it by Black and White but forget about other minorities. When slavery was outlawed, plantation owners brought in Chinese workers to replace them, thinking they would be harder workers but to find they also didn’t like to working for low wages. Then the Chinese inclusion act passed and many Chinese in America found themselves alone in a country that did not want them and no way of bringing their families over from China. Jo knows her realities but also doesn’t stop her from dreaming of a future where she pays her own way and though she’ll never get the recognition she deserves she still found a way to change her world.