Wednesday 30 August 2023

#bookreview: Blind Date with a Supervillain | H.L. Burke

Saturday's cover reveal caught your interest? Here's my review of the first book in the Supervillain Romance Project series!

Blind Date with a Supervillain (Supervillain Romance Project)Blind Date with a Supervillain by H.L. Burke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this during my 6-hour layover in the Haneda airport because WHY NOT? I did purposely pack it in the hand-carry because it looked like a light enough read for travelling, both in weight/heft and brain space required.

Blind Date with a Supervillain is a sweet college romance - but with superpowers. I'm not a big superhero story fan so I haven't actually read any of the other books in Burke's Supervillain (or Superhero) series but you don't really need to, I guess, because this one works fine as the start of a new series. (I've mostly read her other works: Spellsmith & Carver: The Complete Boxset and Spice Bringer are great reads!)

Saying that, I went in slightly unsure, but ended up loving the book. It's light, it's funny, and it's a sweet romance that hits all the right spots.

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Saturday 26 August 2023

#CoverReveal: Second Chance Superhero | H.L. Burke

Once a slacker, now a superhero, but will his ex buy the change?

Eleven years ago, Brayden Water's high school sweetheart slammed the door in his face. Floundering, he found purpose first in the military, then by volunteering for genetic enhancements and joining the Department of Super-Abled as a full-time hero. Just when everything's looking up, a family emergency summons him back to the hometown he gleefully put in his rearview. And guess who else is back in town? 

Rachel Blum has had it with men in general. A single mom who managed to scratch her way through medical school, she's accepted that she can't depend on anyone ... especially not her sometimes criminal baby daddy, and definitely not her high school ex who has popped up out of nowhere after a decade of radio silence. Dang, though, Brayden's even hotter than she remembered, and there's ... something different about him now, though she can't quite put her finger on what. Could he really have finally gotten his act together? Can she take the risk?

Brayden's bitterness over Rachel's rejection slowly turns to admiration and begrudging affection. But even if he drops the fact that he can now fly and shoot lasers out of his eyes, will she ever see him as anything but a small-town loser? When her son's father starts causing trouble, though, Brayden realizes, she might just need a hero in her life after all.

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Second Chance Superhero is a new Superhero Romance from author H.L. Burke and part of the longer, multi-series SVR/DOSAverse expanded universe of superhero fiction. 

The book launches on September 9th, but you can now pre-order it for 99c on Amazon. 

It’s a tale of love after heartbreak, coming home, and second chances featuring a cocky but damaged superhero and the high school sweetheart who broke his heart but is now a single mom (and doctor)  haunted by her own past… also, French fries, a cart-load of wine, and surprisingly high number of dinosaurs. 



"Can superheroes be cozy? Second Chance Superhero is the novel equivalent of a Marvel movie, a shopping cart of wine, and a scented candle." 

— C.O. Bonham, author of Runaway Lyrics

"Great story! It’s like a Hallmark movie with a sci-fi budget."

— Max B. Sternberg, author of The Rhise of Light

“H.L. Burke’s superhero books just keep getting better and better! (And they were amazing to begin with.) I have devoured every book in the series and eagerly await each new release. In Second Chance Superhero, I was sucked in to Brayden’s and Rachel’s plight, rooting for them to overcome their pasts, and couldn’t stop reading. No matter which book you pick up in this series, I highly recommend!”

— Michele Israel Harper, award-winning editor and author of Kill the Beast


H. L. Burke has written more books than she can count—because she's written a lot of books, not just because she can't count very high. 

Easily distracted by shinies, she has published in many subgenres including fantasy romance, Steampunk, and superhero, and always creates story worlds with snark, feels, and wonder. 

Married to her high school crush, she spends her time writing, spoiling her cat, and supervising her two supervillains in training (aka her precocious daughters). 

An Oregon native, she wilts without trees and doesn't mind the rain. She is a fan of delicious flavor, a follower of the Light, and a believer in happily ever after.

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Wednesday 23 August 2023

#bookreview: Her Radiant Curse | Elizabeth Lim

Her Radiant CurseHer Radiant Curse by Elizabeth Lim
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I suppose it must be said that the mysterious origins of the Nameless Queen in Six Crimson Cranes and The Dragon's Promise was intriguing enough that I requested Her Radiant Curse when I saw it on NetGalley, even though I've been telling myself to stop picking up ARCs when I have no time to write reviews.

Here is the story of the two sisters, one beautiful and one hideous, and how their very existence changed the world. It is, thankfully, not one of sibling rivalry and resentment because of the disparity of how they're treated, but one where the two sisters love each other so much that they would give up their own lives for the other.

It is a story that deals a lot with the idea of beauty - how one is treated because of how they look, the expectations and burdens of both beauty and ugliness. Whilst the focus is on Channi as the protagonist, it is also about Vanna and how the beautiful sister has to always act in acceptable ways because everyone expects it of her. It brings to mind Isabela Madrigal from Encanto.

There are beautiful and touching moments in Her Radiant Curse and I think that the relationships in the book are the core of what kept me reading, from Channi and Vanna's special bond, to Channi's close friendship with Ukar and her tumultuous alliance (frenemyship? lol) with Hokzuh. Unfortunately, for it being written in first person from Channi's POV, I did not really like Channi very much at all - which, I suppose, is the reason for this rather detached review.

I will have to say the ending was great though.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from Hodder & Stoughton via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Monday 21 August 2023

#musicmonday: How Long (Song of the Martyrs) // Jesus My Beloved | Josh Yeoh

This momentary light affliction

Is working in me an eternal weight of glory

And in the waiting

Keep me steady

Until You come

Saturday 19 August 2023

#mycheveningyear: Anna's guide to #tea in London

Everyone knows about the British and their tea. What not everyone realises is that most of the tea drunk in England, especially in local homes, is either black sludge or milk with a dash of tea.

Okay, that's a little harsh, but it's also mostly true--at least in my experience. I don't really know why, seeing they have so many great local tea brands. Maybe I just meet the wrong people lol.


ANYWAY, I apparently abandoned this post in January 2020, but after talking to this year's batch of Chevening scholars, I felt like maybe I should finish it. This isn't a definitive guide! This is just a list of the places I went and the teas I liked. (I favour fruit/floral + black tea blends.) Also, I mostly buy looseleaf because it's cheaper and lasts longer, so everything I mention is probably looseleaf unless stated. 


This was from my 2016 trip. I didn't take a new photo in 2018.

This is number 1 on my list because the two "famous" English tea brands you get in Malaysian shops is Twinings and Ahmad Tea, so you're likely to have already heard of this, or tried it before. Many cafes do use Twinings. You can probably get many of their teas in shops around London, but their flagship store is worth the visit because it's "the oldest tea shop in London". (I was just gonna say bla bla bla history, but they do mention it on their website)

What I especially liked was the mix and match section towards the front of the store where you can buy a bunch of individual teabags to see whether you liked it instead of having to commit to a whole box of like 15-20 teabags. (I used this to test the ones I wasn't sure about.) 

Favourite teas: Nutty Chocolate Flavour Assam Tea; Lady Grey (teabags)


You'll see that I also had a couple of Whittard teas in that big first tea splurge. I discovered Whittard at Covent Garden in my 2016 trip, so that's where I went back to. There's a bunch of shops in London, so it's not hard to find. Also, for continuity's sake, there is now a Whittard shop (tiny little island) in One Utama, and they do ship Malaysia-wide, so it's not impossible to find here. (Which can't quite be said of the others.)

I don't know if they're still doing this post-Covid, but what I liked about this shop was they always had various testers out so it was fun to try new stuff and consider whether I should get them.

Favourite teas: Piccadilly Blend; Baked Apple*; Lucky Lychee**

* They still don't have this in Malaysia booooo. Turkish Apple is NOT THE SAME.
** Not sure if this is a CNY special?

Bird and Blend

This is my recent favourite, and it's sad that I only discovered them in my last few months in the UK, in the middle of Dissertation Summer. I wish I'd discovered them earlier! The most convenient shop is the one near Borough Market (which also has a few independent tea shops inside, but those have quite a limited range.), and it's probably on the way to one of the tube stations, because my association is something to do with Shakespeare's Globe + tube + Borough Market. 

I literally just stumbled upon it while walking, but the reason I noticed it particularly that day (instead of just following Google maps and walking by) was because someone in the Sheffield group mentioned "Bird and Blend" while we were there on our road trip so the sign caught my attention. 

Unlike the first two, Bird & Blend does not have a Malaysian store so I have been relying on people to hand carry it back to Malaysia haha. In previous years, they used to have free international shipping on Boxing Day but that's been discontinued. I mean you can pay for shipping but... 

Favourite teas: Tea & Toast, Earl Grey Paradise (might be a special now?)

Also, the advent calendar is worth looking out for <3. I had a lot of fun with this!


Okay, TWG is is a Singaporean brand so you don't particularly NEED to go there, but they have a fancy shop with quite a large range of teas downstairs and a cafe upstairs at Leicester Square. If' you're in the area to catch a play, it's just a nice place to stop and have afternoon tea and feel a little atas lol. 

Favourite teas: I used to quite like their French Earl Grey but I don't know anymore. I don't think I have any repeat buys from TWG, especially not from London.     


Main Takeaways

These are the bigger tea brands in London that are easy to get and have quite a wide range of teas. But I also enjoyed walking into tiny little teashops just to see what they had. Here are some:

From a random market stall in Scotland:

From random shops in Bath and Stratford-upon-Avon:

From some tourist shop in Dublin:

One thing I ended up regretting was not getting a tea subscription when I arrived. They usually do this as an annual thing and could either be a subscription to a tea that you like, where they send you a new batch every quarter or so, or one of those tea boxes where they send you random new stuff every month for you to try! I kind of knew vaguely about stuff like that before, but just thought it was out of my budget. By the time I looked at how much tea I was buying and figured out what the options were, it was kind of too late to get a year's subscription. I'm not sure if they do shorter term subscriptions, but it's worth checking out if you know you're going to buy a lot of tea. 

Final thing to note: London has funny-tasting water, which sometimes translates into weird-tasting tea. (California had that as well but at least London admits to it.) I inherited a Brita water filter from Evelyn, which really helped haha (she was leaving, I was arriving). 

Anyway. This is all. I'll leave you with a tea stash from when I visited Europe. 

Wednesday 16 August 2023

#bookreview: The Invisible Hour | Alice Hoffman

The Invisible HourThe Invisible Hour by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked up The Invisible Hour because has a very interesting premise: What if books could save you literally?

It sure seems that way for Mia Jacob, whose discovery of the forbidden pleasures of reading gives her the courage and independence to leave the abusive cult she grew up in. And then, as the book blurb says, "time is more fluid than she imagines" and she "makes her way back in time".

For one who picked up the book on the basis of this really cool time-travel promise (with books at its heart!), the problem is that it takes a very long time to get there. Part One, which is about half the book iirc, is about how Mia's mom ran away to the Community, the dynamics between Ivy and Joel Davis - and Mia, Mia growing up there, and how she manages to escape through the power of books... which does make an interesting story, but I'm not really into cult stories as a general premise. I nearly wanted to give up when I finally got to Part 2, which jumps back in time to Nathaniel Hawthorn's timeline in the 1800s and how he meets this strange redhead who changes his life.

Reading other reviews, I suppose this is where the book either fails or succeeds - either you like the time travel or you hate it. I kinda liked the time travel bit, but I was annoyed it took so long to get there.

I did like how Hoffman dealt with the whole changing-the-past paradox, though. If Mia stays in the past, would Hawthorne never write the book that saves her? But Mia can't stay in the present, with Joel Davis still intent on claiming her (To keep as his own? To kill? It could go either way). Hoffman managed to handle that perfectly, closing the circle so the paradox ends.

However, why and how Mia time travels is never explained.(view spoiler) I've never read any Hoffman book before (at least that I recall), but she does seem to write more contemporary fiction with magical elements, veering towards magical realism. (There's a complexity/debate to what actually constitutes magical realism that I don't think I'm ready to figure out, so...idk.) So maybe that's how it's done in this kind of genre?? I suppose since it's more contemporary fic than strict SFF, the how and why doesn't matter as much - but seeing that this is the ONLY instance of time travel, it does feel rather contrived.

I suppose if you like a mash up of contemporary and historical fic with a dash of romance and time travel, you'll like this book.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from Atria Books via Edelweiss. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Wednesday 9 August 2023

#bookreviews: Girls of Paper and Fire | Natasha Ngan

Girls of Paper and Fire (Girls of Paper and Fire, #1)Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Okay, I am having trouble writing this review because I did really like it, but at the same time, it was just... okay? Not sure how to reconcile this. I'm thinking it's more of a 4? 4.5? star, because I did enjoy reading it, but I'm not at gushing levels of love.

Plot-wise... it's not anything really new. It feels like one of those old-time Chinese (or well, generally East-Asian) royal dramas where you have all the concubines in the palace, some there willingly, most there by force. There's a yearly selection of "Paper Girls", and obviously the one taken there by force stumbles into a plot against the king... Only there's no flying kungfu, except where the demons have bird forms. And since this is a harem story, obviously Angry-I-Hate-The-King protagonist falls in love with someone who is not the king.

Content warnings at this point would be: LGBT romance, sexual abuse, physical abuse. Obviously, the king does not take "no" for an answer, and there's quite a lot of raping and looting going on in the wider world of Ikhara. It's not graphic - which is why I suppose it still fits under YA - but it's not something everyone can stomach. Oh, and if you're against authors killing dogs, you might want to skip Chapter 2.

I think what I quite enjoyed throughout the book was the setting. There's layer after layer of Chinese culture embedded into every scene; no obvious cutting away to "oh, but that feels really White" or "look at me I'm so exotic!" scenes, at least for me. Added bonus: the Chinese half of Ngan's heritage is Malaysian, so I loved the little touches of Malaysiana amidst the very Chinese court setting. Ikhara itself is a land cobbled together by a conquering king, so besides the obvious difference between the castes (Paper - fully human, Moon - fully demon, Steel - humans with some demon features), there's that subtle intermingling of human cultures, with saris alongside kebayas and cheongsams.

Thinking back, this isn't really a book I would have bothered to pick up on my own; I would have found the blurb much too romance-focused, and maybe a little too generic. But Ngan was reading at SRFC in 2019, and there was a Malaysian connection, so I figured I might as well just get a copy and have it signed. heh.

So now, even though I'll likely never read it again or bother to read the sequel, it'll just sit on my shelves because it's signed to me. haha.

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Interested in the series? Get it here:


Whoo! I'm caught up on The 2023 Booktempter's TBR reduction challenge, with August's free read.

Wednesday 2 August 2023

#bookreview: The Book of Fire | Christy Lefteri

The Book of FireThe Book of Fire by Christy Lefteri
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a story within a story, about a woman and her daughter, about her husband and his loss, about a fire that devastated their forest, their town, their lives. It is about family and love, greed for money, regret, loss, and death. And always about the fire. And the man who started it.

It is also about kindness. The faithful dog that stays by their side, the old women they accompany, the family who takes them in, the baby jackal they rescue, the lies adults tell each other so the children do not learn of terrible truths too young.

And numbness. The kind that leaves you unable to do anything until it's too late. Leaving you wondering again, what if? What if I had acted? Is this then my fault?

The Book of Fire is a quiet book with a fiery soul. Irini tells it in the aftermath of the fire, in the midst of rebuilding their lives, as her husband, Tasso, struggles with depression and the damage to his hands and her daughter, Chara, deals with an injury and tries to make sense of it all. She copes with the difficult bits by telling us the past in a fairy tale, in that once upon a Harry Lime, interweaving stories of her father and her great-grandfather, of their movements to and from this little forest in Greece that she now calls home.

Lefteri does very well in writing about loss and love, and also interweaving in the histories of the people and the places in the novel. This feels a little lighter than The Beekeeper of Aleppo, maybe because the scope feels a little smaller, the stakes a little lower. It's a beautiful read, all the same.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from Bonnier Books UK via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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