About Jaclyn

I'm a total bookaholic! Info for authors, publishers, and publicists: My fave genres include romance, mysteries, thrillers, and fantasy. I'm especially interested in books by and about: BIPOC folks, Filipino stories and Filipino diaspora stories, plus-size / fat folks. Romances with animal-loving heroes and heroines are a major plus. My to-read pile is pretty hefty, so if your book includes any of these, please let me know! In terms of triggers/content warnings: - No animals dying, or getting hurt or killed. Even (and to an extent, especially) if it's a throwaway scene in a mystery/thriller. Hard limit. If this happens in your book, please don't send it my way. - If your book includes cancer, death of a mom or sister, mental health conditions, fatphobia, and/or abuse (particularly gaslighting and emotional abuse), please include a trigger warning in your pitch. Thanks! :-)

Review | Anni Dreams of Biryani, by Namita Moolani Mehra (illus. by Chaaya Prabhat)

AnniDreamsOfBiryaniThis children’s picture book is absolutely adorable! In Little India is a Biryani Cafe, run by a cranky Uncle who makes the most delicious biryani. Across the street from the Cafe lives Anni, a little girl who loves to cook and dreams of opening her own cafe someday. She’s determined to learn the secret behind Uncle’s biryani so she can make it for herself.

Both the story and the illustrations are super sweet and charming. There are some fun tips that Uncle shares with Anni about cooking biryani: use whole green chilies for one, and probably most important, stop asking questions and go try to cook the dish for yourself!

My only snag is that I wish the book included the recipe for Uncle’s biryani. For admittedly selfish reasons, I also wish that recipe would have included the secret ingredient that Anni says made it so special. But more broadly, I think that especially given Anni’s age, a kid-friendly recipe of how to make biryani yourself (with a grown-up, of course!) would have made this book even more special. The book does explain what biryani is, and it does give us a link to a biryani recipe online, but I think including a recipe on the actual pages would have been the perfect finishing touch.

Otherwise, the book is adorable. I love thinking of all the young aspiring cooks out there who’ll read this and be inspired to figure out the recipes behind their own favourite dishes. And with those descriptions and illustrations, I’m now super craving biryani myself!

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Thank you to Thomas Allen for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review | Digging Up Love, by Chandra Blumberg

DiggingUpLoveCoverI really, really wanted to love this one. The hero’s a palaeontologist, the heroine’s a baker and secret dinosaur nerd, the heroine has to deal with complex family dynamics, the hero’s super sweet and understanding… this book has so many incredible elements that are usually my catnip when it comes to romance novels.

Unfortunately, I found myself struggling to get through it. I did end up tapping out and DNF-ing about 2/3 through, so if the story suddenly picks up in the final third, I’m afraid I missed it.

The writing is solid, and the characters are multi-faceted with interesting backstories that help explain why it takes them 300 pages to get to their happily ever after. But I think I just kept hoping for more. I saw how both characters found the other attractive, and I saw a couple of moments where they connected emotionally, but I never really felt the chemistry and connection between them. I see the push and pull happening, mostly from Alisha keeping Quentin at bay, but almost like from a distance, in that I never really quite felt the tension keeping them apart.

I thought the author did a really good job in explaining why Alisha was so hesitant to tell her grandparents about her plans to move to the big city, but the novel also kinda presents her move as a done deal from the start. And even when circumstances make her delay the move, I never quite felt it was a real risk that she’d change her mind altogether. That detracted a lot of the tension for me, because I figure she’d just end up telling them at some point. And from stuff her grandmother says, I also think it’s not quite as big a deal as Alisha’s making it out to be. Not to diminish the complexities of family responsibilities, but this subplot felt more drawn out and complicated than it had to be.

And while I understand why Quentin would have a problem with that, given his romantic history with an ex who kept secrets, I also never quite felt why it would be such a big deal to him? There’s a huge difference between his ex’s secrets and the ones Alisha keeps, and a huge difference in the circumstances between the two. Most frustrating, I think, is that I’m not even annoyed at him for being so unreasonable; mostly, this barrier to their relationship feels too flimsy to take seriously, so it’s just a bit of a waiting game till he figures that out.

Ultimately, interesting hook, and I love that it features nerdy characters. I just never quite got pulled into the story nor invested in their relationship.

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Thank you to Thomas Allen Ltd for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review | Seasons of the Witch: Beltane Oracle, by Lorriane Anderson and Juliet Diaz (illus. by Giada Rose)

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Beltane is the season for growth and new beginnings. The Bee card (“Don’t drink all of life from one flower, for there are many to taste and many to explore.”) attracted me to this deck, and when I saw some of the other cards included, I knew this deck would be a wonderfully rich addition to my tarot and oracle practice.

Because, how absolutely beautiful are these cards? Each card’s message resonates with me, and has a beautiful prompt for reflection and journaling. The colour palette is muted, and the artwork gives off such calm and chill vibes that from the start, I can already see this being a deck I reach for when I need a bit of comfort and self-care. I also love the backs of the cards — the bee imagery and golden honey background give off that feel of renewal and possibility that comes with Beltane, and I just love the overall vibe of this deck.

The one snag for me is that the box is a bit snug; I find it hard to open, and a bit of a challenge to get the cards out. But the cards themselves are beautiful, with shiny gold foil edging. And unlike some of the larger, stiffer oracle decks out there, these ones are easy to shuffle. (I like using a riffle shuffle with bridge, and my hands aren’t big enough to make that work with many other oracle decks I’ve tried.)

The guidebook is lovely as well. While the one-liner prompts on the cards themselves already inspire deep reflection, the guidebook dives even deeper into the symbolism in each card. It also offers some concrete advice or messages that the card may be suggesting, so that helps for times when you’re looking more for quick answers than deep reflection/meditation.

The guidebook also includes some spreads, including one for interviewing your deck. That seemed a good way to get to know this deck better, so I’ve tried it below.

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Main Takeaway: This seems like it’ll be a powerful, uplifting deck for my collection, one that can nourish me, boost my confidence, and remind me of the limitless potential within me.

1. What personality do you have?

Fertilizing. “Food is not the only thing that nourishes you, dear one. Be mindful of what you feed your soul.”

2. What is your strength?

Chant. “Hear me loud, hear me roar, for I am here in my truth.”

3. What is your weakness?

Sun god. “Come all, come now; expand into the skies and into the shadows below.”

I interpret this to mean the deck’s energy is very feminine and nurturing, and perhaps I’ll need to dig a bit deeper if I want to understand the more masculine aspects of the readings.

4. How will this deck help me grow?

Pegasus. “Break free, dear one, spread wide and far for you aren’t containable — you are limitless.”

5.  When should I call on this deck for guidance?

Fae. “Not everything is as it may seem. Be cautious, dear one, for these is a story beneath the tale.”

I interpret this to mean that this deck will be helpful when my spidey senses are tingling, but I can’t quite put my finger on why. This deck can help me connect to my intuition, and figure out what I’m picking up on but not quite seeing.

6. What is the best way to work with this deck?

Cow. “May the embrace of all that is nurturing you awaken in all that you are becoming.”

7. What will our relationship be like?

Flower crown. “Wear your power proudly and unapologetically for it is your birthright and is eternal like the soul.”

Overall impressions: This was my first reading with this deck, and I love how clear the overall message was. This deck works well with me on an intuitive level. I can see myself using it often, and I’m excited about doing deeper dive reflections, meditations, and journaling with it.

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Thank you to Thomas Allen Ltd for a review copy of this oracle deck in exchange for an honest review.