All posts by The Shenners

[Blog Tour] Review for Anna K by Jenny Lee

I’m late by 3 days, but I’m posting for the blog tour for Anna K by Jenny Lee.

Anna K

Synopsis:

Meet Anna K. At seventeen, she is at the top of Manhattan and Greenwich society (even if she prefers the company of her horses and dogs); she has the perfect (if perfectly boring) boyfriend; and she has always made her Korean-American father proud (even if he can be a bit controlling). Meanwhile, Anna’s brother, Steven, and his girlfriend, Lolly, are trying to weather a sexting scandal; Lolly’s little sister, Kimmie, is recalibrating after an injury derails her ice dancing career; and Steven’s best friend, Dustin, is madly (and one-sidedly) in love with Kimmie.

As her friends struggle with the pitfalls of teenage life, Anna always seems to sail gracefully above it all. That is, until the night she meets Alexi “Count” Vronsky. A notorious playboy, Alexi is everything Anna is not. But he has never been in love until he meets Anna, and maybe she hasn’t either. As Alexi and Anna are pulled irresistibly together, she has to decide how much of her life she is willing to let go to be with him. And when a shocking revelation threatens to shatter their relationship, she is forced to ask if she has ever known herself at all.

Dazzlingly opulent and emotionally riveting, Anna K is a brilliant reimagining of Leo Tolstoy’s timeless love story, Anna Karenina—but above all, it is a novel about the dizzying, glorious, heart-stopping experience of first love and first heartbreak.

My Review:

I have very mixed feelings about Anna K. It was hard for me to get into at first because of how removed the characters’ lives were from mine, with the vast majority of them being part of the literal 1%. I grew up comfortably middle class, but faced with this level of wealth, I felt like I was observing an alien culture. There is wild shit in a lot of contemporary YAs, but add in extreme wealth and you get next level wild shit. The high class setting also comes with an even more rigid set of social expectations and pressures than your average teen might be subject to.

It was also hard for me to get into the story toward the beginning because the characters felt a lot more shallow, and everything happening to them simply felt like petty drama. What the characters were calling love felt more like infatuation. And yeah, I get that this is a common experience for teens, confounding the two, but I wasn’t understanding even the source of the infatuation except the stereotypical teen hormones and encounters between people who conform to hegemonic beauty standards. Even as the story progressed, I still wasn’t convinced that the two main characters were really in love because I felt like the narrative placed so much emphasis on their physical/sexual attraction to each other over more substantial emotional bonding. I wasn’t invested in the main romance at all.

On the plus side, I got to experience the train wreck of this story with no expectations or prior knowledge since I have never read Anna Karenina, the original story this is a retelling of. So I was just popping my figurative popcorn watching shit hit the fan more times than should be possible in a single novel. Whether there was True Love or not between the leads, there was definitely a lot of teens making Truly Terrible Life Choices and facing the consequences, and that was a source of entertainment for me, somewhat.

The final third of book was probably where the story hit the hardest and I started to feel the story pull its own weight. And despite some of the petty drama aspects I alluded to, the book did also explore (to varying degrees) serious topics such as drug addiction, depression, grief, misogyny/slut-shaming, and there was even a bit of commentary race and class (though far less of it than I wished there had been, but maybe that’s just my ethnic studies background speaking).

My disappointment in the main couple aside, the supporting characters’ story arcs and relationship dynamics were comparatively more engaging and interesting to me, especially those of Dustin and Kimmie. Another point in this book’s favor: Anna, a teen girl, unapologetically owns her sexuality, is shown taking initiative in sex, and sex isn’t treated with kid gloves. I’m actually fairly surprised by how explicit some of the scenes were; it was not your usual figurative language-laden, fade to black kind of fare.

I guess if I had one more comment/critique to add, it’s that this book was overwhelmingly heteronormative (and completely cisnormative; there was no mention of trans people even existing). There were four named queer characters, but only one had a more important role in the story, two of them made zero actual appearances in the story, and one was just there to be a “gay BFF” (direct quote from the book) to a straight girl. There were a few unnamed queer characters mentioned once in passing, and they were literally referred to as “gays,” which, coming from an author who is as far as I know, straight, was rather off-putting to read. Moreover, the overarching framing of the narrative was completely focused on the m/f relationships and gender dynamics, so the commentary on patriarchy and misogyny lacked nuance.

In conclusion: I didn’t completely hate the story, but I ultimately didn’t love it either, though I wanted to because I had high hopes for it going in. It might just be a taste thing.

CWs/TWs: drugs (use/addiction/overdose), alcohol, depression, death (human and animal), infidelity, explicit sex, mentions of self-harm, suicidal ideation, misogyny (some challenged in-text, some not), racist microaggressions against Asian and mixed race people

About the Author:

Jenny Lee is a television writer and producer who has worked on BET’s Boomerang, IFC’s Brockmire, Freeform’s Young & Hungry, and the Disney Channel’s number-one-rated kids’ show, Shake It Up. Jenny is the author of four humor essay collections and two middle grade novels. Anna K: A Love Story is her debut YA novel. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and 135-pound Newfoundland, Gemma (and yes, it’s a toss-up on who’s walking who every day). Instagram: @jennyleewrites

Harley in the Sky Circus Book Tag

This book tag was created by Jemma at Fantastic Books and Where to Find Them and is part of the promo for the upcoming release Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman (out March 10th), whose debut, Starfish, I loved (review here)

RingMaster – What book introduced you to your favorite genre?
My favorite genre is fantasy and honestly, I cannot remember the very first fantasy book I read. I know I started reading Harry Potter circa second grade, but JKR is dead to me, so I guess if I want to pick something else that holds a lot of nostalgia and is one of the earliest fantasy series I read, it’s the Unicorn Chronicles by Bruce Coville. My fourth grade teacher read the first book, Into the Land of the Unicorns, out loud to my class, and I fell in love with it. I still remember waiting years and years for the series to finish. The first book was published in 1994 and the second in 1997, before I was introduced to the series (sometime during 2002-2003), but the third book didn’t come out until 2008 and the fourth/final one in 2010, so I waited like 8 years, which amounted to almost half my lifetime at the time of the final book’s release. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for someone who started the series when the first book was just published.

Acrobatics – A fast-paced read.
Charlie Hernandez & the League of Shadows by Ryan Calejo is a fast-paced middle grade fantasy book based on Latinx/Hispanic folklore. I read it plus the sequel, Charlie Hernandez & the Castle of Bones last month and had a blast. I haven’t seen a lot of people talk about it even in lists of Latinx kidlit, but I highly recommend it for fantasy action/adventure lovers.

Clowns – A book that made you laugh.
Aru Shah and the Song of Death, the sequel to Aru Shah and the End of Time, by Roshani Chokshi, had some pretty funny jokes/moments in it.

Knife thrower – A book that had you on the edge of your seat.
I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal was super intense and suspenseful. It’s a YA novel about contemporary race relations told from two points of view, following a Black girl and a white girl who are forced to become allies as they try to make their way out of a fight at a football game and a local street protest that transform into a full-blown riot in their city.

Tightrope Walker – A book you just couldn’t put down.
Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa, sequel to Shadow of the Fox. There’s a super high stakes quest in a race against time and I desperately needed to know how everything was going to play out. Dying to read book 3 right now.

Ventriloquist – A book with a great twist.
Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim has a number of twists. It’s a genderbent take on The Count of Monte Cristo, with a brown girl protagonist who tries to get revenge on the people who sold her into indentured servitude, except there’s some complications with her being attracted to the son of the man who supposedly ruined her life and several people not being who they appear to be, among other things.

Magician – A book with a magic system you love.
The Reader by Traci Chee. I raved about this book back when I reviewed it in 2016, and the trilogy has become one of my all-time favorite fantasy series. I mean, how much better can it get than reading and books being literal magic? I liked how reading wasn’t just restricted to words on paper but also reading in the sense of perceiving the world around you, so there were multiple ways to “read” and manipulate the world with magic.

Static Trapeze – Best or Worst Cliffhanger.
Infinity Son by Adam Silvera. I can’t say what happens because it’s a spoiler, obviously, but holy shit you cannot just leave us dangling there after That happened. *cue keyboard smash*


And that’s the end of the tag. I tag whomever wants to do this

Pondathon Sign-Up Post and TBR

Pondathon: The Quiet Pond's story-driven readathon. Image: Two swords with vines wrapped around it frame the words 'Pondathon', with three little forest sprites sitting on top. One forest sprite has a leaf on its head, the middle has twigs for horns, and the right has a mushroom on its head.

What is the Pondathon?

The Pondathon is a co-operative and story-driven readathon hosted and run by CW from The Quiet Pond. The aim of the Pondathon is to read books and collect points to protect the friends over at The Quiet Pond from the encroaching malevolent forces that threaten our friends in the forest.

Have fun participating in the Pondathon readathon by joining one of five teams, each with a unique way to collect points and signing up! You can also follow the story of the Pondathon as it unfolds, and participants can also complete ‘side quests’ during the readathon to collect extra points. The readathon takes place from January 24th 2020 to March 7th 2020. More information about the readathon can be found here.

Information about Joining the Pondathon

  1. To join the Pondathon, simply sign up anytime between January 18th 2020 to March 5th 2020.
  2. Choose a team, create your own animal character for the Pondathon and create a character card!
  3. Create a blog post, bookstagram post, booktube video, Twitter thread, or whatever medium you wish, with ‘#Pondathon’ in the title or your tweet. Share the character you have created and your character card!
  4. Link back to this post so that others can find this readathon and join in.

Share your updates on your blog/bookstagram/booktube and social media. You are more than welcome to tag @thequietpond or @artfromafriend on Twitter or Instagram in all your updates! We’d love to see all of the beautiful and awesome characters that you create!

My Pond Character

'

My Pond Character is Cyrus, an orange fox with round glasses who can usually be found carrying a book. They are a warrior of the word. They believe words have power and must be wielded carefully and responsibly. Verbal spells, spoken and written, are a critical part of their arsenal of weapons. They also bear a trusty staff that they use to focus their magic. Cyrus will be joining Team Xiaolong.

team xiaolong full


My Pondathon TBR

 

I don’t have my entire TBR planned  for the entire duration of the readathon, but this is tentatively what I’ll be reading for the next two and a half-ish weeks. It’s a combination of newer eARCs, backlist eARCs (many from 2017 *sweats*) and my physical TBR (which I already posted a sort-of complete list of for #StartOnYourShelfAthon…I say sort-of because I’ve since acquired more books oops).

  1. The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
  2. Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz
  3. The Last 8 by Laura Pohl
  4. The First 7 by Laura Pohl
  5. This Light Between Us by Andrew Fukuda
  6. This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura
  7. Woven in Moonlight Isabel Ibañez
  8. The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante
  9. Bluecrowne by Kate Milford
  10. The Thief Knot by Kate Milford
  11. Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi
  12. War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi
  13. A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano
  14. A Sprinkle of Spirits by Anna Meriano
  15. A Mixture of Mischief by Anna Meriano
  16. Diamond City by Francesca Flores
  17. We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
  18. Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith
  19. Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi
  20. Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
  21. Belle Révolte by Linsey Miller
  22. Water in May Ismée Miel Williams
  23. Fake It Till You Break It by Jenn P. Nguyen
  24. Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tonya Bolden
  25. Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo
  26. Dark Chapter by Winnie M. Li
  27. I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn
  28. The Leavers by Lisa Ko
  29. Where the Stars Rise edited by Lucas K. Law & Derwin Mak
  30. Meet Cute edited by Jennifer L. Armentrout, Dhonielle Clayton, Katie Cotugno, Jocelyn Davies, Huntley Fitzpatrick, Nina LaCour, Emery Lord, Katharine McGee, Kass Morgan, Julie Murphy, Meredith Russo, Sara Shepard, Nicola Yoon, Ibi Zoboi
  31. The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi
  32. We Hunt the Flame by Hasfah Faizal
  33. This Train is Being Held by Ismée Miel Williams
  34. Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

[Blog Tour] Review for Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business by Lyla Lee

Today I’m excited to be part of the blog tour for Mindy Kim and Yummy Seaweed Business by Lyla Lee (with illustrations by Dung Ho), the first in a new chapter book series focusing on a Korean American girl. The book and its sequel, Mindy Kim and the Lunar New Year Parade, will be released on January 14th by Aladdin Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster).

Synopsis:

Fresh Off the Boat meets Junie B. Jones in this first novel in an adorable new chapter book series about Mindy Kim, a young Asian American girl who is starting a snack business!

Mindy Kim just wants three things:
1. A puppy!
2. To fit in at her new school
3. For her dad to be happy again

But, getting all three of the things on her list is a lot trickier than she thought it would be. On her first day of school, Mindy’s school snack of dried seaweed isn’t exactly popular at the lunch table. Luckily, her new friend, Sally, makes the snacks seem totally delicious to Mindy’s new classmates, so they decide to start the Yummy Seaweed Business to try and raise money for that puppy!

When another student decides to try and sabotage their business, Mindy loses more than she bargained for—and wonders if she’ll ever fit in. Will Mindy be able to overcome her uncertainty and find the courage to be herself?

I loved this book. It’s super adorable and I found various aspects of it very relatable. One thing I shared with Mindy was being the new kid who moved from one state to another (I moved twice when I was a kid) and the struggles of navigating and adapting in a new social environment. Another was being the lone or minority Asian kid. Unlike Mindy, I was fortunate not to have the “ew, what’s that” lunch experience (I bought lunch from school for most of my school years), but thankfully the microaggression gets subverted and things makes a turn for the better in the story.

The second aspect was Mindy’s family situation. Her mother recently passed away from illness, and she and her dad have to adjust to the loss and the change. I lost my mom to leukemia in 2016, so I empathized with Mindy and her family’s grief. Although her mom is no longer around, Mindy still has her dad, and I loved how close and loving their relationship is. They communicate openly with each other and support each other through their rough patches, and it reminded me of my own bond with my dad.

Another theme in the book is friendship. Mindy manages to make a friend named Sally, and things look bright until a messy incident comes between them. When I was a kid, I had a friendship that went sour and never recovered, and sometimes I still find myself regretting it, so I think it’s important to teach kids conflict resolution, which the story does. It emphasizes the importance of making amends and the power of a sincere apology, which was nice.

The story wraps up with a happy and somewhat open ending that leaves room for more to come. I can’t wait to read the next books in the series.

About the Author:

Lyla Lee Credit CJ Lee

LYLA LEE is a writer of many things. After working various jobs in Hollywood and studying psychology and cinematic arts at USC, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. When she is not writing, she is teaching, watching Korean dramas and other TV shows, and eating all kinds of good food. Visit her online at lylaleebooks.com and on Twitter and Instagram at @literarylyla.

 

About the Illustrator:
DUNG HO was born and raised in Hue, Vietnam, where she studied graphic design at the Hue University College of Arts. After graduating, she worked in the design and advertising industries before discovering a great passion for illustration and picture books and becoming a freelance illustrator. Currently, she lives and works in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Ho draws inspiration from nature and the interaction between people and nature and especially loves to draw children. When not drawing, she enjoys cooking and watching movies. Visit her online at dungho.me and on Instagram @dunghanhho.

Don’t miss the rest of the tour:

MINDY KIM AND THE YUMMY SEAWEED BUSINESS BLOG TOUR

Monday, 1/6: YA Book Nerd

Tuesday, 1/7: MG Book Village

Wednesday, 1/8: The Subversive Table

Thursday, 1/9: Jean’s Little Library

Friday, 1/10: READING (AS)(I)AN (AM)ERICA

Monday 1/13: Daddy Mojo

Tuesday, 1/14: Books, Movies, Reviews. Oh my

Wednesday, 1/15: Cracking the Cover

Thursday, 1/16: YA Books Central

Friday, 1/17: Bicultural Mama

Announcement and Sign-Up Post for the Year of the Asian Reading Challenge

I meant to join this reading challenge last year but never got around to signing up for it, so this year I am actually Doing the Thing. This reading challenge is hosted by CW (blog: The Quiet Pond, Twitter: @artfromafriend), Lily (blog: Sprinkles of Dreams, Twitter: @sprnklsofdreams), Shealea (blog: Shut Up Shealea, Twitter: @bookshelfbitch), and Vicky (blog: Vicky Who Reads, Twitter: @vickycbooks). You can find the sign-up and detailed information page here.

Basically the reading challenge encourages everyone to read books by Asian authors year-round throughout 2020. You set a goal for a number of books you want to read and earn a badge featuring an Asian animal for hitting certain targets. I’ve decided to be ambitious and aim for the highest tier, 50+ books, which makes my goal the Bengali tiger:

badge_tiger

This post will serve as the place where I update which books I’ve read and link any reviews I write for the books I read for the challenge.

As a matter of fact, I’ve already read a few books by Asian authors this year, so I have a list already. Here’s my list:

  1. I’m Ok by Patti Kim
  2. The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
  3. The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden (The Vanderbeekers #2) by Karina Yan Glaser
  4. Aru Shah and the Song of Death (The Pandava Series #2) by Roshani Chokshi
  5. Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business by Lyla Lee
  6. The Descent of Monsters by JY Yang
  7. The Ascent to Godhood by JY Yang
  8. The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta
  9. Game of Stars by Sayantani DasGupta
  10. Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim
  11. The Long Ride by Marina Budhos
  12. Midsummer’s Mayhem by Rajani LaRocca
  13. The Iron Will of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee
  14. The Best at It by Maulik Pancholy
  15. Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa
  16. Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa
  17. After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay
  18. Checked by Cynthia Kadohata
  19. The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
  20. This Light Between Us by Andrew Fukuda
  21. This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura
  22. Spirit Hunters: The Island of Monsters by Ellen Oh
  23. Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi
  24. The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
  25. Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
  26. Fake It Till You Break It by Jenn P. Nguyen
  27. Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo
  28. Dark Chapter by Winnie M. Li
  29. I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn
  30. The Leavers by Lisa Ko
  31. Mindy Kim and the Lunar New Year Parade by Lyla Lee
  32. Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy edited by Derwin Mak and Lucas K. Law
  33. We Hunt the Flame by Hasfah Faizal
  34. P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
  35. Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok
  36. Turtles Under Ice by Juleah del Rosario
  37. Wicked Fox by Kat Cho
  38. b, Book, and Me by Kim Sagwa
  39. Internment by Samira Ahmed
  40. Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park
  41. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
  42. Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco
  43. Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon
  44. The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad
  45. Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
  46. Cilla Lee-Jenkins: The Epic Story by Susan Tan
  47. Pippa Park Raises Her Game by Erin Yun
  48. Almost American Girl by Robin Ha
  49. I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi
  50. The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah
  51. The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala
  52. The Beautiful by Renee Adhieh
  53. Anna K by Jenny Lee
  54. Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan
  55. The Twelve by Cindy Lin
  56. Seven Deadly Shadows by Courtney Alameda and Valynne E. Maetani
  57. Mimi Lee Gets a Clue by Jennifer J. Chow
  58. The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi
  59. Silverworld by Diana Abu-Jaber
  60. Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed
  61. When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller
  62. House Rules by Ruby Lang
  63. The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
  64. Brown Girl Ghosted by Mintie Das
  65. A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat
  66. Malice by Pintip Dunn
  67. Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa

Current Badges Earned: Philippine Tarsier (1-10 books), Indian Cobra (11-20 books), Malayan Tapir (21-30 books), Giant Panda (31-40 books), Asian Elephant (41-50 books), Bengali Tiger (50+ books)

Review for More to the Story by Hena Khan

I really enjoyed Hena Khan’s middle grade debut Amina’s Voice (review here), so I’m happy that Simon & Schuster offered me a copy of More to the Story to read and review.

More to the Story

Synopsis:

From the critically acclaimed author of Amina’s Voice comes a new story inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic, Little Women, featuring four sisters from a modern American Muslim family living in Georgia.

When Jameela Mirza is picked to be feature editor of her middle school newspaper, she’s one step closer to being an award-winning journalist like her late grandfather. The problem is her editor-in-chief keeps shooting down her article ideas. Jameela’s assigned to write about the new boy in school, who has a cool British accent but doesn’t share much, and wonders how she’ll make his story gripping enough to enter into a national media contest.

Jameela, along with her three sisters, is devastated when their father needs to take a job overseas, away from their cozy Georgia home for six months. Missing him makes Jameela determined to write an epic article—one to make her dad extra proud. But when her younger sister gets seriously ill, Jameela’s world turns upside down. And as her hunger for fame looks like it might cost her a blossoming friendship, Jameela questions what matters most, and whether she’s cut out to be a journalist at all…

My Review:

More to the Story is an endearing story about a Muslim Pakistani American girl, Jameela, who’s struggling to deal with several stressful changes and situations in her life. It touches on multiple themes and manages to balance a number of subplots well and resolve them with a pitch-perfect ending.

First among the issues touched on in the story is Jameela’s father leaving the family to work a job far away. Life as a middle schooler can be tough enough as it is without one of your parents being across the globe. Although modern technology allows long-distance communication, it’s definitely not the same as having your parent by your side on a day-to-day basis. I found this particular struggle of Jameela’s relatable because when I was a teen, my dad had to take a job that forced him to relocate over a thousand miles away, and I missed him terribly. Like Jameela, I have a close relationship with my dad, so I found their dynamic touching.

Another central theme in the story was sibling dynamics. Jameela is a middle child, with an older sister and two younger sisters. I’m also a middle child, with one older sister, and one younger sister. Her relationships with her siblings don’t look anything like mine, but it was still interesting to see how they played out. This story emphasized how, even if you envy them or find them annoying at times, your siblings are your family, and you can’t help but love and care about them.

The third theme I want to talk about is friendship. In the story, Jameela meets and befriends the nephew of a family friend, a British Pakistani boy named Ali who has just moved to the U.S. I liked the way their friendship was developed, with Ali gradually opening up to Jameela, who has a genuine desire to understand him better and help him with the troubles he’s dealing with on his own. I also appreciated the exploration of consent and boundaries and ethical journalism when Ali and his experiences became a tentative topic/subject for Jameela’s school newspaper article.

Next is the subplot on Bisma, Jameela’s younger sister, who develops a tumor. Cancer is terrifying. I know this firsthand from when my mom got leukemia. Despite the fear and uncertainty, Jameela is able to cope with support from her family and takes it upon herself to be as supportive of an older sister as possible. I was several years older than Jameela when my mom was diagnosed, but I found myself admiring and envying her bravery and resilience in the face of everything, and I really wanted to give her a hug to let her know she’s not alone in experiencing such a scary situation.

Another topic that came up in the story was anger management. Jameela is a passionate person who feels things intensely, and sometimes that manifests as anger, which can have destructive consequences. The story is explicit about addressing this issue, which made me appreciate it even more. I feel like if I’d had a book like this when I was younger, I wouldn’t have struggled so much with anger as a teen, something that definitely negatively impacted my relationships with my peers.

Last, but not least, I loved that this book showed a teen pursuing a creative passion and having it taken seriously. A lot of times people downplay kids’ hobbies and interests as things that are fleeting or pointless, so it was heartening to read a story where a young teen character does what she loves and is supported in that endeavor by her parents and other adults. It’s my hope that young readers of this book will feel encouraged follow their dreams, be it journalism or art or science, and carry their passion into the future with them.

All in all, this was a heartwarming read that’s perfect for anyone who loves stories about family, sisterhood, and love in all its manifestations.

Announcement Post and TBR for #StartOnYourShelfathon

I’m joining a readathon to help tackle my immense backlist. “#StartOnYourShelfathon is a 2020 star-themed readathon hosted and run by CW from The Quiet Pond. The aim of #StartOnYourShelfathon is to read as many unread books on your bookshelf as you can between December 13th 2019 and December 31st 2020.” You can learn more about the readathon here.

I have a majority of my books locked away in a storage unit, so I’m restricting my TBR for this challenge to physical books I have on hand and books on my Kindle, which is still a pretty hefty number. For the purpose of this readathon, I won’t include eARCs that have been on my Kindle forever (my NetGalley feedback ratio is a tragic 38%), but I will be working on getting through those on the side. Here’s my TBR (not in the order I’m planning to read them in, just numbered so I know how many books there are on the list):

  1. Wicked Fox by Kat Cho
  2. Running with Lions by Julian Winters
  3. We Hunt the Flame by Hasfah Faizal
  4. Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa
  5. The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
  6. Dealing in Dreams by Lilliam Rivera
  7. The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi
  8. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
  9. Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok
  10. Electrum: An All-Ages Mixed Race Comics Anthology edited by Der-Shing Helmer
  11. Sea Sirens by Amy Chu & Janet K. Lee
  12. Midsummer’s Mayhem by Rajani LaRocca
  13. The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad
  14. Strong than a Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan
  15. The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala
  16. Nocturna by Maya Motayne
  17. We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
  18. The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayon
  19. This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura
  20. Fake It Till You Break It by Jenn P. Nguyen
  21. Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo
  22. I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn
  23. Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi
  24. Internment by Samira Ahmed
  25. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
  26. The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco
  27. The Shadow Glass by Rin Chupeco
  28. The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta
  29. The Game of Stars by Sayantani DasGupta
  30. Aru Shah and the Song of Death by Roshani Chokshi
  31. I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day
  32. Doc and the Detective in Graveyard Treasure by Tim Tingle
  33. Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel José Older
  34. Dactyl Hill Squad: Freedom Fire by Daniel José Older
  35. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
  36. This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kacen Callender
  37. The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu
  38. Jackpot by Nic Stone
  39. Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells
  40. Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly
  41. Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake
  42. Of Ice and Shadows by Audrey Coulthurst
  43. The Carpet Merchant of Konstantiniyya, Vol. 1 by Reimena Yee
  44. Come Drink With Me by Michelle Kan
  45. No More Heroes by Michelle Kan
  46. City of Strife by Claudie Arseneault
  47. Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver
  48. The Terracotta Bride by Zen Cho
  49. Prom Queen Perfect by Clarisse David
  50. I Crashed into a Unicorn by Kasey Jeon
  51. Kindred by Octavia Butler
  52. The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
  53. Lady’s Pursuit by Hilari Bell

[Blog Tour] Review for Song of the Crimson Flower by Julie C. Dao

Hi everyone, I’m back for another blog tour, this time for Song of the Crimson Flower by Julie C. Dao. The tour is hosted by Rafael (The Royal Polar Bear Reads) and Erika (The Nocturnal Fey). I was excited for this release and tour since I really enjoyed both of Julie’s previous books, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. I reviewed FOTL back in 2017, so if you want to check out that review, here’s the link.

Song of the Crimson Flower

Synopsis:

From the acclaimed author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns comes a fantastical new tale of darkness and love, in which magical bonds are stronger than blood.

Will love break the spell? After cruelly rejecting Bao, the poor physician’s apprentice who loves her, Lan, a wealthy nobleman’s daughter, regrets her actions. So when she finds Bao’s prized flute floating in his boat near her house, she takes it into her care, not knowing that his soul has been trapped inside it by an evil witch, who cursed Bao, telling him that only love will set him free. Though Bao now despises her, Lan vows to make amends and help break the spell.

Together, the two travel across the continent, finding themselves in the presence of greatness in the forms of the Great Forest’s Empress Jade and Commander Wei. They journey with Wei, getting tangled in the webs of war, blood magic, and romance along the way. Will Lan and Bao begin to break the spell that’s been placed upon them? Or will they be doomed to live out their lives with black magic running through their veins?

This story was different in tone from the first two Rise of the Empress books, but it had its own appeal. It’s a lot quieter, in my opinion, but not in a bad way. It’s a beautiful story about the power of love, both familial and romantic.

One of the major themes of the book is the discrepancy between expectations and reality when you’re infatuated with someone. Both of the main characters, Bao and Lan, deal with a painful awakening when the person they admired turns out not to be the person they imagined in their head. In the aftermath of this pain, the two begin to learn what love with substance looks like.

The relationship between Lan and Bao goes through a lot of change throughout the story. It starts out as a one-sided infatuation on Bao’s part, and there is a rift between Lan and Bao because Bao helped Lan’s crush deceive her. There’s a very tangible awkwardness between the two as they begin their journey, but gradually, the two are brought closer together not only by their shared quest to break the curse on Bao but a openness to giving the other person a chance. It’s a very subtle and tender relationship that touches the heart.

I really liked Bao’s character. If you’re looking for soft boys, Bao is a perfect example. His defining feature is his kindness and compassion for others, which shows in his work as a physician’s apprentice. He’s also a romantic who loves music and poetry and expresses himself through these things. One of his greatest desires is a family and a place to belong, making him a very sympathetic character.

By contrast, Lan comes off as a bit spoiled and naive at first, but she becomes more likable as the story progresses. Though she may not have any extraordinary magic or fighting skill, she does have a good heart and is willing to do what she must to help Bao.

Besides the romance, another of the engaging aspects of the story is the exploration of family ties. Bao starts off not knowing any of his blood relations but later learns his mother is still alive and waiting for him to reunite with her. However, his desire to connect with her and be loved by her conflicts with his own sense of morals after learning her history and her current activities (I won’t spoil what exactly she’s doing, but it’s not pretty). He has to make some tough choices about his family’s legacy.

While Song of the Crimson Flower is a companion novel to two other books, it does work as a standalone. I personally think reading the Rise of the Empress duology first will make for a deeper appreciation of the book because it includes some supporting characters whose backgrounds are explored in the original duology. Plus, if you read this book first, there will be some spoilers since it takes place after the events of the original duology.

About the Author:

Julie C Dao author photoJulie C. Dao (www.juliedao.com) is a proud Vietnamese-American who was born in upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her Kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is her debut novel. Julie lives in New England. Follow her on Twitter @jules_writes.

 

Author links:

Website – http://www.juliedao.com/
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15215228.Julie_C_Dao
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/juliecdao

Book links:

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32605126-song-of-the-crimson-flowerAmazonhttps://www.amazon.com/Song-Crimson-Flower-Julie-Dao/dp/1524738352
Barnes & Noble – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/song-of-the-crimson-flower-julie-c-dao/1130550411
Book Depository – https://www.bookdepository.com/Song-Crimson-Flower-Julie-C-Dao/9781524738358
IndieBound – https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781524738358

 

[Blog Tour] Review for The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco

Hi everyone, it’s been a while since my last post, but I’m back again to participate in the blog tour for The Never Tilting World, hosted by Caffeine Book Tours, which is run by Shealea.

The Never Tilting World

BOOK INFORMATION

Title: The Never Tilting World
Author: Rin Chupeco
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication date: 15 October 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

Synopsis:

Frozen meets Mad Max in this epic teen fantasy duology bursting with star-crossed romance, immortal heroines, and elemental magic, perfect for fans of Furyborn.

Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon. But seventeen years ago, one sister’s betrayal defied an ancient prophecy and split their world in two. The planet ceased to spin, and a Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in perpetual night, the other scorched by an unrelenting sun.

While one sister rules Aranth—a frozen city surrounded by a storm-wracked sea —her twin inhabits the sand-locked Golden City. Each goddess has raised a daughter, and each keeps her own secrets about her sister’s betrayal.

But when shadowy forces begin to call their daughters, Odessa and Haidee, back to the site of the Breaking, the two young goddesses —along with a powerful healer from Aranth, and a mouthy desert scavenger —set out on separate journeys across treacherous wastelands, desperate to heal their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands.

Review:

The synopsis set up a lot of expectations, and by and large, I think the book delivered what was promised. The story was a rollicking ride from start to finish. I read the ARC in ebook format, so I was surprised when I saw that the page count was around 500 pages because it didn’t feel like it because of the swift pacing.

It’s not mentioned in the synopsis, but the story is told in four different points of view, one for each of the characters mentioned in the final paragraph, all of them in first-person. I think the author did a good job of using the alternating POVs to enhance the storytelling, especially in terms of revealing/withholding key information that created dramatic irony and narrative tension. The POVs were like pieces of a puzzle; assembling them allowed for a clearer and deeper understanding of the world, the web of characters, and the histories/mythologies that were scattered and lost or hidden in the process of the Aeon’s Breaking.

To talk a little more about the characters: Odessa and Haidee were interesting to me because even though they are literal goddesses with superpowers beyond what everyone else can do, they’re still fallible, and their agency is limited by their respective environments. They are not all-knowing or all-powerful, they’re just teens trying to figure shit out and do the best they can with what resources they have. Their immense power is balanced out by an immense personal responsibility for literally saving the world. Because the bigger picture stakes of the story are so intimately bound up in the characters’ personal stakes, the stress on them is enormous, which makes for great character development arcs.

As for the other two characters, I was pleasantly surprised to find two disabled characters being front and center in the story. I definitely connected with Tianlan, Odessa’s bodyguard and the de facto leader of Aranth’s mission to the Great Abyss. Her past experience on a similar journey traumatized her, leaving her with PTSD. Her psychological struggles were relatable to me as someone who has mental illness as well. I appreciate that the story treated her and her illness with care and compassion and that the worldbuilding acknowledged the existence and impact of mental illness alongside other physical or even magical ailments.

Then we have Arjun, orphan, amputee, and snark-master extraordinaire. He’s practical and cynical, a survivor down to the bone, more invested in the here and now than any abstract future. At first he’s ready to take revenge for the climate disaster on the goddess Haidee, but slowly, reluctantly, he finds himself choosing hope and believing that they can fix the world. He’s the kind of underdog that you can’t help but root for.

Another strength of the book is the worldbuilding. Aeon is a world of extreme contrasts, a world of beautiful chaos, and the details and description in the story provide breathtaking visuals for both the physical setting (the two cities as well the surrounding wastelands and the frightening and fascinating creatures that inhabit them) and the elemental magic system. The author wasn’t afraid to push the envelope and go wild with the aesthetics, so I think this story would be perfect for an animated movie adaptation.

For those who love a good romance, there are not one but two romantic pairings and subplots in The Never Tilting World, one f/f, the other m/f. The f/f romance features the guard/princess dynamic, while the m/f has two bickering strangers-turned-allies forced to cohabitate in a small space together. I personally found the f/f romance more compelling, probably because it has more emotional baggage and angst attached to it stemming from trust issues and conflicts of interest. However, both relationships had their tensions and buildup.

And for those who aren’t really as interested in romance, there is plenty of non-romantic plot and character development, including some interesting twists. I hope you get the same emotional journey out of this book that I did.

Content/Trigger Warnings: PTSD, ableist language, references to sexual assault, sex (non-graphic)

About the Author:

Rin Chupeco author photoRin Chupeco has written obscure manuals for complicated computer programs, talked people out of their money at event shows, and done many other terrible things. She now writes about ghosts and fantastic worlds but is still sometimes mistaken for a revenant. She is the author of The Girl from the Well, its sequel, The Suffering, and the Bone Witch trilogy.

Despite an unsettling resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin always maintains her sense of hummus. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. Dances like the neighbors are watching.

Author links:

Author website —https://www.rinchupeco.com/
Goodreads — https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7055613.Rin_Chupeco
Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/rinchupeco
Pinterest — https://www.pinterest.com/rinchupeco/
Twitter —https://www.twitter.com/rinchupeco 

Book links:

Amazon — https://amzn.to/2kMphSI
Book Depository — https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Never-Tilting-World/9780062821799
Goodreads — https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36321739-the-never-tilting-world

Don’t miss out on the other stops on the blog tour:

Tour Schedule (The Never Tilting World)

Also, if you have the time, join us for the end-of-tour Twitter chat about The Never Tilting World:

Twitter Chat Info (The Never Tilting World)

 

[Blog Tour] Review for Jade War by Fonda Lee

Hello! Today’s post is for the Jade War blog tour hosted by Shealea at Caffeine Book Tours. I’m excited to be a part of this tour since I’ve read and enjoyed all of Fonda Lee’s previous works. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to review Jade City before this, but rest assured that I savored it immensely. (I did previously interview Fonda Lee about Jade City and her YA scifi book Exo here if you want to read that.) If you haven’t read Jade City yet, you might want to wait to read it first before reading this review because there are some inevitable spoilers for book 1. That said, this review is spoiler-free as far as Jade War itself is concerned.

Before we get to the review, here’s the basic info about the book:

Jade War

Title: Jade War
Author: Fonda Lee
Publisher: Orbit Books
Publication date: 23 July 2019
Genres: Adult, Fantasy

Synopsis:

In Jade War, the sequel to the World Fantasy Award-winning novel Jade City, the Kaul siblings battle rival clans for honor and control over an Asia-inspired fantasy metropolis. 

On the island of Kekon, the Kaul family is locked in a violent feud for control of the capital city and the supply of magical jade that endows trained Green Bone warriors with supernatural powers they alone have possessed for hundreds of years. 

Beyond Kekon’s borders, war is brewing. Powerful foreign governments and mercenary criminal kingpins alike turn their eyes on the island nation. Jade, Kekon’s most prized resource, could make them rich – or give them the edge they’d need to topple their rivals. 

Faced with threats on all sides, the Kaul family is forced to form new and dangerous alliances, confront enemies in the darkest streets and the tallest office towers, and put honor aside in order to do whatever it takes to ensure their own survival – and that of all the Green Bones of Kekon. 

Jade War is the second book of the Green Bone Saga, an epic trilogy about family, honor, and those who live and die by the ancient laws of blood and jade.

Review:

I read this shortly after finishing Jade City, so everything from book 1 was fresh in my mind and I was super hyped. Sequels, especially the second in a trilogy, are hard to nail because they need to live up to–if not exceed–the first book while also building toward the next/final book. Jade War definitely exceeded my expectations.

As you probably know, Jade City was a character-driven book, so character development was crucial to the success of Jade War. Jade War absolutely delivered on that front. It was amazing to see how Hilo and Shae grew into their roles as Pillar and Weatherman, respectively, as well as how Anden found a place for himself outside of the traditional Green Bone mold. I was also happy to follow Wen’s arc since it had been foreshadowed that she would play a bigger part in the No Peak Clan’s activities for a while. All of the characters were tested in how they dealt with increasingly difficult situations and decisions. That leads me to my next topic.

The geographical scope of Jade War is bigger than that of Jade City, and the worldbuilding is expanded upon. The Green Bones have to deal with more than just inter-clan conflict, they also have to handle threats and opportunities from outside forces on multiple fronts. I was especially thrilled to see a diasporic Kekonese community portrayed in Jade War, and I think the intricacies of those diasporic experiences were done well. We mostly view them through the eyes of Anden, who is studying abroad in Espenia and hosted by a Keko-Espenian family. Although he feels it is not the same as Kekon, he comes to respect and immerse himself in this community.

Jade War is an extremely complex story with many different characters with varied agendas, but Lee juggles these aspects so well. From geopolitical machinations to international trade to black market dealings to interpersonal conflicts, all of these pieces inform one another and fit together so well that I’m impressed and frankly, envious.

Last but not least, I have to say that this book contains some of the best action scenes that I’ve ever read. I was on the edge of my seat for so many of them because I was internally freaking out over what might happen next. I have rarely been so stressed out by a fictional scene, but these were so well-written my stomach was churning with anxiety and I could physically feel my body warming up from the emotional impact. If you’re reading Jade War, you’re in for a rollercoaster ride beyond compare.

So much happens in Jade War and yet there is foreshadowing for still more to come. I think I might die waiting for the final installment of this trilogy.

Content/Trigger Warnings: violence, dismemberment, drug use, murder, homophobia

About the Author:

Author photo (Fonda Lee)Fonda Lee writes science fiction and fantasy for adults and teens. She is the author of the Green Bone Saga, beginning with Jade City (Orbit), which won the 2018 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, was nominated for the Nebula Award and the Locus Award, and was named a Best Book of 2017 by NPR, Barnes & Noble, Syfy Wire, and others. The second book in the Green Bone Saga, Jade War, releases in the summer of 2019. Fonda’s young adult science fiction novels Zeroboxer (Flux), Exo and Cross Fire (Scholastic), have garnered numerous accolades including being named Junior Library Guild Selection, Andre Norton Award finalist, Oregon Book Award finalist, Oregon Spirit Book Award winner, and YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. In 2018, Fonda gained the distinction of winning the Aurora Award, Canada’s national science fiction and fantasy award, twice in the same year for Best Novel and Best Young Adult Novel.

Fonda wrote her first novel, about a dragon on a quest for a magic pendant, in fifth grade during the long bus ride to and from school each day. Many years later, she cast her high school classmates as characters in her second novel, a pulpy superhero saga co-written with a friend by passing a graphing calculator back and forth during biology class. Fortunately, both of these experiments are lost to the world forever.

Fonda is a former corporate strategist who has worked for or advised a number of Fortune 500 companies. She holds black belts in karate and kung fu, goes mad for smart action movies (think The Matrix, Inception, and Minority Report) and is an Eggs Benedict enthusiast. Born and raised in Calgary, Canada, she currently resides in Portland, Oregon.

Author links:

Author website — https://fondalee.com/about-fonda-lee/
Goodreads — http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7705004.Fonda_Lee
Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/fonda.lee.94
Twitter — http://www.twitter.com/FondaJLee
Tumblr — http://fondalee.tumblr.com/ 

Book links:

Amazon — https://amzn.to/2LIhqRg
Book Depository — https://www.bookdepository.com/Jade-War/9780356510538
Goodreads — https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41716919-jade-war

Don’t miss out on the other stops on the blog tour:

Tour Schedule (Jade War)