12 in 12 Challenge | 2022

i truly do not want to jinx anything, but i feel like i might be back in my reading era. right now i am reading, consuming, and loving a lot of books and stories – so i decided to push myself a little bit, but with a content creating overlapping twist.

so, i have done “read 12 books recommended by 12 friends” in the past and i have really loved doing it. but i saw this insta template go a little viral with my friends, and i thought it would be a perfect opportunity to push myself a little and join along in the fun!

but instead of asking my friends on booksta and goodreads, i polled my friends in the kpop community! lmaoooo listen, i was a little scared at first, but they gave such good and thoughtful recommendations by so many queer authors of color! i was thriving while picking these 12 books! and another little added challenge i did was that i only picked friends who ulted a certain kpop idol once – therefore only one book recommendation from one jimin biased friend! and truly, i got such good range with that too and it makes my heart full and warm!

okay let’s get into the books and the kpop friends who picked them… and who they bias in kpop!


12 recommendations | 12 friends + 12 months

Once Upon a Broken Heart
★ genre: ya fantasy
★ recommended by: ann
★ kpop ult bias: loona chu
The Love Hypothesis
★ genre: adult contemporary romance
★ recommended by: mis
★ kpop ult bias: svt woozi
★ Lonely Castle in the Mirror
★ genre: ya asian magical realism
★ recommended by: tai
★ kpop ult bias: txt yeonjun
The Black Flamingo
★ genre: ya queer black contemporary
★ recommended by: edith
★ kpop ult bias: oh my girl hyojung
Felix Ever After
★ genre: ya queer black contemporary
★ recommended by: gabriel
★ kpop ult bias: txt taehyun
The Last Sun
★ genre: adult queer urban fantasy
★ recommended by: emily
★ kpop ult bias: 2pm junho
The Flowers of War
★ genre: asian historical fiction
★ recommended by: sophie
★ kpop ult bias: enhypen jake
A Closed and Common Orbit
★ genre: adult queer scifi
★ recommended by: arryn
★ kpop ult bias: svt wonwoo + mingyu
Summer Bird Blue
★ genre: ya queer contemporary
★ recommended by: evie
★ kpop ult bias: loona yves
Under the Whispering Door
★ genre: adult queer paranormal fantasy
★ recommended by: bethany
★ kpop ult bias: bts jin
Tian Guan Ci Fu, Vol. 1
★ genre: queer asian fantasy
★ recommended by: maëlys
★ kpop ult bias: bts namjoon
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
★ genre: adult queer asian poetry
★ recommended by: Betty Jo
★ kpop ult bias: bts jimin

(credit and shoutout to destiny for formatting her 2022 challenge post so cute!)


whew! a powerful little list, aye? i hope you all enjoyed this! i am truly so excited to start reading these! please let me know if you are doing this challenge too – and if you made a blog post please oh please link me it! i am sending you all so much love always, and happy reading! ♡


My 2021 Reading Year in Review

happy new year, friends! i can’t believe we are entering a brand new year, because time just keeps feeling more and more fake! but these are always my favorite posts to make, and i hope you enjoy reading it. 

okay, let’s rip the metaphorical band-aid off right away – so i have read less books in 2021 than i ever have before. i remember a month or so ago, thinking about how i might be disappointed with myself when writing up this post, but today when i was updating my goodreads and saw that i “only” read 33 books, i actually was okay. maybe even better than okay, and i don’t really know the answer to why! maybe *gasp* good mental health right now? maybe because i read a lot of books that i absolutely loved, and have some memories attached to some that enhance everything about the story itself? maybe because at end of the day (or year), 33 still feels like an impressive number compared to what i felt like that i read with the lack of pressure and expectations i put on myself while leaving 2020.

2020 was a really hard year for everyone, but i think i left that year with just not wanting to put any extra pressure or expectations on myself in all regards, and that very much impacted my reading this year. i wanted to just throw myself creatively in other new places things that were bringing me happiness instead of reclaiming spaces and remembering my worth.

if i have one goal in 2022 it really is to stop being so hard on myself. i really am my own worst critic in every aspect of my life, and i just want to be braver in this new year, and trust in myself that everything will work out and be okay. because i honestly proved to myself in 2021 that everything was okay and that i was okay. (i mean, despite the very loud and obvious and still scary state of our world right now.) i still feel like i’m still struggling to find my place among book stuff again, but i know everything is a process, and i think pushing myself a little more in 2022 will be a really good thing for me and my reading! but i do find myself ✨ organically ✨ craving to read like before again, and i hope i am able to find that good balance and talk about it in 2022’s reading year in review. but first let’s look back at 2021, everything that i was able to read (and my favorites), and some cool reading graphs! 


Thanks to the amazing Brock at Let’s Read, here are some 2021 reading statistics that I was able to gather from his amazing spreadsheet that I use every single year:


My Top Ten Favorite 2021 Publications:
➽ 10.) Vespertine Margaret Rogerson
➽ 9.) Chain of Iron (The Last Hours, #2) by Cassandra Clare
➽ 8.) We Free the Stars Hafsah Faizal
➽ 7.) Honey Girl Morgan Rogers
➽ 6.) Ace of Spades Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
➽ 5.) One Last Stop Casey McQuiston
➽ 4.) Yolk Mary H.K. Choi
➽ 3.) The Anthropocene Reviewed John Green
➽ 2.) Iron Widow Xiran Jay Zhao
➽ 1.) She Who Became the Sun Shelley Parker-Chan


okay, friends! happy new year – i am sending you and your families love, luck, good health, and so much warmth in 2022 and always. i miss you all so much, and i hope that 2021 was gentle on you and that you were gentle on yourselves, too! i also absolutely cannot wait to read all of your end of year favorites posts and give my tbr a lot of love based on your book recommendations! i’m thankful for you all always, and i love you.

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➽ My 2020 Reading Challenge
➽ My 2019 Reading Challenge
➽ My 2018 Reading Challenge
➽ My 2017 Reading Challenge
➽ My 2016 Reading Challenge
➽ My 2015 Reading Challenge

Favorite Non-Book Things | 2021

oh hello, friends! i know it has been a little while, much more than a little while honestly, but i hope you’ve all been well and having a happy holiday season and getting good rest while we finish up this year! 2021 has been hard on all of us, and learning to navigate the new normal of a pandemic is just exhausting. but im here to tell you some of the non bookish things that brought me joy and made the year feel a little lighter and happier! and i promise, a 2021 bookish wrap up soon too! 💗


➽ 01.) Sioris – Make It Bright Sheet Mask

i feel like this entire pandemic i have tested so many sheet masks! but truly for the price, these Sioris ones are the best of the best. they make my skin so dewy and plump, but also so moisturized and calm! if i was a rich person, i would use of of these every night, lmaoooo! these are truly so amazing, and i also really recommend the Time is Running Out Mist by Sioris too! (i know the name is funny, but putting this under my make up is my favorite thing!)


➽ 02.) Olaplex – Healthy Hair Essentials

Olaplex Black Friday sale 2021: Best deals on the hair care range loved by  celebs

i always would hear my offline friends talk about olaplex, and i’m not sure if i was just misinformed or being stupid, but i always thought the brand was only for color treated hair! but basically i have very thick hair and a lot of it, and i was unable to get my hair cut for such a long time because of the pandemic! i was trying to cut it myself, but i was getting such bad tangles that i would actually cry while brushing my hair, and i would give myself such bad headaches and neckaches! but then i started researching detangling shampoo because i didnt know what to do, and i found the No.3 Hair Perfector, No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo, and No.5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner system and it actually changed my hair completely. before i would spend just as much money on high end brand shampoos and conditioners and i have never in my life seen instant results like this with any of them! (also, i did get my first hair cut in over a year and a half in october, but these products truly just made that look better too! haha!)


➽ 03.) Target’s Triangle Bralette – Colsie

Women's Triangle Bralette - Colsie™ : Target

truly these bralettes are everything and they are only $7! like, i truly can’t believe! i have bought so many of these thigs year and i’m truly obsessed! i wear these 100% of the time at home, and 50% of the time when i leave the home (100% when im wearing an oversized top) – like they are so comfortable! and i do have a bigger chest, too, and they support while not sacrificing any comfort! i know target is only in the united states now, but truly if you have access to these i really recommend trying them out!


➽ 04.) Waterloo Sparkling Water

Austin's Waterloo Sparkling Water jumping into Walgreens, CVS and more

i don’t exactly know how or why i fell in love with seltzer water in 2021, but… here we are. i randomly had a few in my house, and i tried them, and remembering enjoying them in the past, and then i completely spiraled into trying all the different brands of seltzer water! but my friend amy told me about waterloo, which i can sometimes find at target too, and it really is my favorite of them all! blueberry is easily my favorite, but i am very biased with blueberry flavored things in general, haha! i really have enjoyed all that i’ve tried, but strawberry is probably my second favorite!


➽ 05.) IKEA’s Billy Bookshelves

BILLY Bookcase, white, 31 1/2x11x79 1/2 "

i know i’m a decade behind on this one, but early this year i decided to redo my shelves and (it was a long long long journey while vegas ikea got their stock of things in) i got six new bookshelves! i still haven’t probably shown them, and if im being honest they still aren’t exactly how i like them, but maybe a kpop/bookshelf tour video coming sooner than you’d think! i am so so so thankful for these shelves, truly! and we will just pretend this isn’t a bookish item, shhhhhh!


➽ 06.) ILLIYOON Ultra Repair Lotion

this is truly the best body lotion i have ever used, but especially in the colder months, and especially in a pandemic where you should be washing your hands so many times a day! you will truly feel the moisturization of this lotion all day long, but it never feels heavy or greasy or like its just sitting on top of the skin and not absorbing. my skin has felt so much softer because of this lotion and i don’t want to picture an alternate reality of my not putting this on after every shower!


➽ 07.) Huntington Beach, California

huntington beach, california, has always been one of my favorite places in this whole world, and it’s also always been a constant source of healing and happiness for me. i love beaches, and huntington is my favorite, and in october 2021 i was able to walk along its shores again after almost two full years. i sat under the pier, listening to the waves and feeling their power, for so long and truly it is probably my most favorite memory of 2021. i really hope there is never a point in my life where the time between visits is ever so long again. (i was also able to go to disney this trip and it truly will forever be such a happy and grateful memory for me!)


➽ 08.) The Hobbit

The Hobbit (film series) - Wikipedia

i have also loved middle-earth, but i was not expecting the emotional hold that the hobbit trilogy (in particular an unexpected journey) had on me this year. every time i felt a panic attack, high anxiety levels, or if i just felt the world was too overwhelming, i would put on the hobbit and everything would feel so much better. again, i have no idea how this became an emotional support source in 2021, but i am very thankful and i do think a reread might be in order for 2022 too! (i got a really breathtaking easton press edition for my birthday this year, too!)


➽ 09.) Seventeen

SEVENTEEN Snap Shoot Selfie Cam gif on We Heart It | Seventeen album,  Mingyu seventeen, Seventeen

i truly entered this year with my heart so full of bts and txt that i didn’t think i had much more room for anyone else, but then the last half of 2021 and seventeen happened. and i truly know that everyone who fell in love with bts with me in the book community in 2019 would absolutely fall in love with seventeen, too! they are such good humans, and such phenomenal artists, and falling in love with them has reminded me so much of falling in love with bts. without question, becoming a carat has been one of the brightest spots of this year for me and i am so thankful.


➽ 10.) jtotheimin

okay, this is kind of going with the last one, and i know i put this on my 2020 list too, but it’s no secret that i have been spending a lot of my creative time making kpop videos. it has truly brought me so much joy and has been such a wonderful outlet for me. and i think my favorite thing is forever going to be mixing books with kpop, hehe! but i hit 6k subscribers this year, 1.1m views, and 4.4m watch time minutes and… i still can’t believe it. i am proud of myself and everything i have carved out and achieved in a new community and i really can’t wait to see all the new loves, and highs, and adventures in 2022! (and thank you all to everything who has supported me, watched this very different style of content, and just let me be unapologetically happy about bts and txt and everyone else – it really means the world to me!)


i am sending you guys so much love, always. i hope you know that, and can still feel that while i haven’t been as active in the community. and i’m so immensely proud of you for enduring another year in this pandemic. and i promise i am cheering for you always, with all your goals, in life and in reading and in everything in between! let me know some of the things that brought you happiness this year! and i’m truly wishing you so much happiness, good health, warmth, and comfort in 2022! 💗

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Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson | Blog Tour

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ARC Provided by Simon & Schuster
Publication: October 5, 2021

➽ An Enchantment of Ravens
➽ Sorcery of Thorns

 

“If I could read humans’ minds, I wouldn’t have ended up trapped inside a little girl’s finger bone.”

I have enjoyed everything that Margaret Rogerson has written thus far, but I do think Vespertine may possibly be my favorite of them all.

Artemisia is a Grey Sister, working alongside nuns at the convent, preparing dead bodies for their final rest. Before the convent, and when she was only a child, she was forced to use the most extreme measures to purge a revenant who was possessing her, and now has disabled hands. But because of her past, she likes to keep to herself and live a quiet life with very few friends. But when an army of possessed soldiers come to destroy the only place that has ever made her feel like home, she is forced to use a saint’s relic that allows a very powerful revenant to share a body with her once again, while also protecting the monastery. But Artemisia quickly realizes these soldiers are not the only ones being possessed by so many different spirits of different powers, and the only hope for this world could be her and the spirit that is currently inhabiting her own body.

Word quickly sweeps across all the lands of a Vespertine who has the power to cleanse and save them all, but there are many who will stop at nothing to ensure she does not come into her full power with her revenant who remembers the past these people are trying to hide very well. But Artemisia must learn if she can even trust this spirit, especially because she has his relic which she must protect because if it is destroyed, the revenant will be destroyed with it.

 

“On this day, we honor her by denouncing the Raven King, bringer of the Sorrow, ruin of the Age of Kings. May his face remain forgotten. May history scorn his name.”

I know the premise of possession can be a little questionable, but Artemisia and her revenant (and their banter) was truly my favorite part of their book. And their friendship, and their trust in one another, while also learning boundaries, was really enjoyable to read. Also, her having that relic and power over the revenant was very important for me, as a reader! And I think the author does a really beautiful job also always remembering and discussing Artemisia’s trauma from her past, while allowing her room to grow but to also decided for herself how she wants to heal and grow, regardless of how linearly the healing is throughout the story and throughout Artemisia’s life.

Artemisia is also very inspired from Joan of Arc, who was also believed to be a saint under divine guidance from a higher power to save her people, even though she was “just” a young and poor girl. Since this is the first book of this duology, I do hope Artemisia does not meet the same end, but the parallels were very subtle and loud at the same time, but always very beautiful.

 

“I wondered if I should pray. But the stars were gone, the Lady’s gaze obscured. I had no sign save the hundreds of voices chanting my name outside.”

I also really loved this whole entire world and magic system. The different castes and hierarchy of spirits and discovering all their different levels and powers was so absolutely fascinating. Even how the cause of death would impact what kind of spirit manifested! I also loved every stop Artemisia and her revenant would make on this journey, and all the new things about these spirits we, as the reader, would learn alongside Artemisia. If you’ve read the author’s previous works, you know that they just really excel at world building and crafting the most beautiful settings, and Vespertine was no different. And I was happily exploring cities and inns, and cathedrals and crypts, with Artemisia.

Overall, I just really loved this and it was a true joy to pick up each time. The side characters were also very amazing, and each friendship that Artemisia chose to start really was beautiful. And I loved seeing Artemisia realize that she is deserving of safety and happiness, regardless of what happened to her in the past. And also seeing her realize that the family you choose will always be more important than the family you were born into. I really recommend this one for so many reasons, but I also think most of you know I just have a really big soft spot for magical fighting nuns always, too. Happy reading!

5


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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Maëlys & Evie! ❤

Content and Trigger Warnings: abandonment, child neglect + abuse in past, possession (the mc uses self-harm in the past + threats of suicide to get spirits to leave her body – both very brief mentions), brief mention of animal abuse, mention of animal deaths, blood depictions, vomiting, drugging, anxiety depictions, talk of plagues, loss of a loved one in the past, mention of spiders, talk of suicide, death, and please note this is a book about sharing a body with an ancient spirit, so i can see that making some people uncomfortable, please use caution!


When not writing I can be found drawing, reading, gaming, making pudding, or creeping through the woods in search of toads and mushrooms. I enjoy coMargaret Rogerson is the author of theNew York TimesbestsellersAn Enchantment of RavensandSorcery of Thorns. She has a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology from Miami University. When not reading or writing she enjoys sketching, gaming, making pudding, and watching more documentaries than is socially acceptable (according to some). She lives near Cincinnati, Ohio, beside a garden full of hummingbirds and roses. Visit her at MargaretRogerson.com.


Kingdom of the Cursed (Kingdom of the Wicked #2) by Kerri Maniscalco

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ARC provided by the publisher

➽ 1.) Kingdom of the Wicked ★★★

“And there is nothing more dangerous than love, is there? People fight for it. They die for it. They commit acts of war and treason and all manner of sin in its name.”

Whew, what a rollercoaster again! Kingdom of the Cursed picks up immediately after the events of Kingdom of the Wicked, and with Emilia trying to pick up the falling pieces of her life. Her main priority is to still avenge her sister and discover who was killing witches in her Italian town, but this time she is looking for clues in the land of actual heck, where she is promised to one of the seven demon rulers, and not the one she already has feelings for. Yet, Wrath escorts her back to his personal heck kingdom, and Emilia soon realizes there is much more she has to be in search of if she ever really wants to live a normal life again.

I feel like talking about my thoughts on this series is just so difficult. Let me start out by saying that this was the most easily consumable book I’ve read all year, and there wasn’t a moment I wasn’t thinking about it while not reading. The atmosphere, setting, and entire vibe is perfect, especially for the autumn time! The main character and her quests for vengeance and for her own discovery really is phenomenal. The writing is lush and descriptive and feels like its own sort of magical teleportation. And the story itself feels enthralling at every turn, and plot points are constantly being set up to leave the reader anticipating that next page, while also begging for the next book.

“When the demon responsible for Vittoria’s death finally felt the flames of my fury, I’d hopefully have burned this House of Sin to ash.”

But there was just a horrible chapter that really dampened my entire reading experience and it really breaks my heart because this is one of those situations where I truly believe if publishing houses would just hire beta readers who review critically, this could have been such an easy chapter to fix. I actually believe that if chapter 17 did not happen, this could have been a five star book for me and you could have seen me holding it up as a new profile picture in 2022. But that scene just 1.) made me wanna throw up and 2.) made it so hard to root for the romance after, even though the author constantly tries to make an excuse for the behavior, but it honestly just makes it feel even worse. Also, I wouldn’t make excuses for anything that happened in that chapter, but once I finished the book I realized that the “training session” was so unnecessary, at least in this book, and again it just ruined my reading enjoyment.

For the sake of the rest of this review, I’m just going to ignore this chapter. But in my review of Kingdom of the Wicked, I said how this series is the first series in so many years to remind me of those fantasy series I read when I was younger and truly could not put the books down, and I would look forward to their next installments being released months and months in advance, while trying to devour to story when it hit my kindle at midnight!

And this story was extra reminiscent of those feelings because this second book takes a very large jump in the adult or new adult fantasy genre. This book is very steamy, and Emilia and Wrath have very sexy thoughts on the brain 24/7. This author also makes full use of this series being about demons inspired off the seven deadly sins, and this story uses very public displays to showcase this. (I do scream at Emilia not knowing about oral sex though, especially when she claims to have read such naughty romance books in her past though!)

Overall, again, this is just a hard one for me to review and rate. I will for sure read book three and see how it all wraps up, because I am actually unhingedly invested in everything, especially with how this second book closes! I really loved all the new developments with Emilia’s powers and with all the witches and the history of witches, actually. I loved a lot of the side characters we were introduced to too, and maybe one demon prince will actually pull a Rhysand, which would be insane but I’d really welcome it at this point. I also want to see all of the different lands and castles of hell, too, because so far every exploration has felt magical and so exciting! I do apologize for this review being all over the place; middle books are always a bit more difficult for me to review, especially ones where I am trying to pretend an entire chapter didn’t happen. I’m going to be very curious what everyone thinks of this book once it releases!

“Not all stories end happily, Emilia”

Trigger + Content Warnings: a lot of blood descriptions + depictions, grief, gore, violence, mention of loss of a loved one, brief mention of the topic of rape, drugging, a lot of sexual themes and scenes, and a full warning that chapter 17 has very questionable physical consent involving mind control powers using magical compulsion – truly full dubcon vibes but sex does not ultimately happen, but it is just a very uncomfortable scene that actually made me nauseous, so please use caution while reading.

3
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Buddy read with Maëlys & Lea! ❤

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao | Blog Tour

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ARC Provided by the Author & Caffeine Book Tours 
Publication: September 21, 2021 by Penguin Teen

“This world does not deserve my respect. It is not worthy of my kindness or compassion.”

I’ll be completely honest, when I read the author note at the start of this book I knew I was about to fall in love with a new story. Xiran Jay Zhao lets the reader know that you are about to get a love letter to Chinese culture, Chinese history, and the only female Chinese emperor! The author does not shy away from the ugly things, but always shines such a powerful light on all the beauty, and truly crafts such an inspiring tale of a girl who will rise up the ranks and become more powerful than anyone ever let her believe or dream, including her family, her country, and even herself.

This story is Asian, queer, and all about abolishing the patriarchy and gender roles that every society tries to make people fit with their judgement, expectations, and laws. “Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid’s Tale in a polyamorous reimagining of China’s only female emperor” is the perfect tagline for this book! And this story is truly so powerful, so beautiful, and so high on my recommendations lists for you all!

Okay, on to the giant transforming robots and what the story is actually about! In this world, Huaxia is trying to protect the Great Wall against Hunduns and their alien mechs (who have already developed and established their own society and way of life on the other side of the wall And Huazia has modified versions of these robots that they call Chrysalises, and constant waves of battle are happening and being broadcasted for the people to watch and be entertained by. The pilots of these mechs are able to transform them into East Asian mythical creatures, and sometimes they are able to gain more special abilities under very specific circumstances when two pilots are able to bond together, weave their qi together, fight stronger together, and have a big adventure in battles together. But there are so few bonded pilots in this world.

But in Huaxia, young boys are hailed as heroes for piloting these machines, but it always takes two pilots, no matter how much society wishes to forget about the evils of the other seat. Young girls are given up by their families to serve the army and have their qi tested to see if they would be able to help pilot alongside a powerful boy. The thing is, most times the boy completely invades, using a psychic link, and uses up every ounce of lifeforce the girl has, killing her during battle.

“I wouldn’t live and suffer for anyone else, but I would die to avenge my sister.”

➽ Wu Zetian – our main character, who is ready to enlist herself in to the army, to the same pilot who her big sister was enlisted to, but only her ashes were given back. On a mission of pure vengeance, and being sick of being held back because of the gender she was assigned at birth, she finally wants to reclaim some semblance of power for her sister, even if she has to pay for it with her life. But when she gets into her first mech as a concubine-pilot, the world is not ready for the power she truly has to offer, even if it could change the war for once and for all. She also uses a cane and sometimes a wheelchair because of the seriousness and pain of her footbinding.

➽ Li Shimin – the Iron Demon, pilot of the Vermillion Bird, and the scariest and most powerful pilots of them all. Not a single girl has made it out of his mech alive during battle. Was on actual death row for murder because his qi power was tested and noticed and now he is forced to endure another type of prison. He also is bisexual and half Rongdi. He is also struggling with alcoholism and immense trauma and grief. (unrelated, but I would give my life for him this very second.)

➽ Gao Yizhi – son of a powerful man who controls many of the social and public relations standards of Huaxia. Yizhi would sneak out and meet Zetian once a month in the forest of her village and help teach her things and just be a good friend to her. When I tell you I would die for this character. I also feel like the author really gave him some 11/10 one-liners. He is also bisexual and really does such a beautiful job teaching Zetian about polyamory. (yes, these three end up in a relationship together, even though it is not the central plot, it is perfect and I hope we are able to see more stories in the future normalize polyamorous relationships in the seamless way this one did!)

“love isn’t some scarce resource to battle over. Love can be infinite, as much as your heart can open.”

But we follow (and fall head over heels in love with) this trio, while they attempt to dismantle the patriarchy and different types of oppression these people have been facing since even before Zhou fell. I know I just gave you a lot of information, but I promise you the author does so much of a better job immersing you in this story and world. Their writing is actually the best writing I’ve read in the past few years and the amount of highlights my eARC has is actually sickening.

I also just deeply loved the themes of feminism and how sometimes things can feel exceptionally heavy when you have been raised your entire life to honor your elders and trust that they know best, when we still have so many systems (and corrupt governments) to dismantle in our world today. I’m typing this review in 2021 where you are still unable to get a divorce in the Philippines that isn’t an annulment, and how living in the US means constantly seeing powerful men make laws that take away women’s rights to their own bodies.

“I close my eyes, picturing myself taking command of a Chrysalis, towering over buildings and smashing the earth with my colossal limbs or luminous qi blasts. I could crush anyone who’s ever tried to crush me. I could free all the girls who’d love to run away.”

Overall this was just the Asian, queer, polyamorous, feminist sci-fi story of my dreams. The layers were so haunting and deep, the themes were so loud and important, the writing was pure perfection and genius levels of lyrical, and the characters were completely and wholeheartedly unforgettable. And I truly believe that book two, and the conclusion to this duology, will be even better come 2022.

Also, this author is just really cool and creates really amazing content on youtube and their blog. I truly think they are just so inspirational, and I believe one day they will have a few stories written about them and the hope and happiness they are giving to so many, including so many Asian kids all around the world who are feeling so seen and feeling even more pride in their cultures.

Also (lastly for real), this book being published on September 21st, the Mid-Autumn Festival in China, and celebrating another story about a woman, a rabbit, and their sacrifices brings actual tears to my eyes. Very galaxy brain of this author and pub house and just a really beautiful final touch.

Iron Window will for sure make my best books of 2021 list, and I am so truly proud and honored to have been on the blog tour for such a powerful story.

Content + Trigger Warnings: murder, death, torture, violence, gore, human sacrifices, thoughts of suicide, a lot of abuse (including domestic abuse and parental abuse), talk of sexual assault, extreme alcohol addiction, lots of consumption of alcohol, lots of depictions of blood, lots of depictions of trauma, depictions of depression, anxiety depictions and panic attacks, many mentions of needles, forced body modifications including footbinding and stolen organs, humiliation, misogyny and sexism, talk of disease, themes of colonization, and war themes

5


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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

(i’m the worst) buddy read(er) with May ❤

Xiran Jay Zhao is a first-gen immigrant from small-town China who was raised by the Internet​. A recent graduate of Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University, they wrote science fiction and fantasy while they probably should have been studying more about biochemical pathways. You can find them on Twitter for memes, Instagram for cosplays and fancy outfits, and YouTube for long videos about Chinese history and culture. Iron Widow is their first novel.

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A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee


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“Once upon a time I found it so easy to forget the stories about Godwin House and the five Dalloway witches who lived here three hundred years ago, their blood in our dirt, their bones banging from our trees.”

I feel like all of Goodreads was screaming “sapphic dark academia with murder and witches” at me to read this, which I very happily obliged, but even with keywords as magnificent as those I still found so many other things to fall in love with about this story.

This is such a beautifully crafted and hauntingly atmospheric book staring a lesbian main character who is coming back to finally finish her senior year at a very spooky boarding school. She is also living with an immense amount of grief, anxiousness, and psychotic depression.

Dalloway School is a very isolated school, and the house that Felicity is going to be sharing with four other girls is even more isolated from the rest of the campus. And even though there are beliefs of witchcraft all over the school, the Godwin House is where five young suspected witches lived before they were murdered 300 years ago.

The writing in this is so wildly fresh, and pleasing, and dare I even say the most aesthetic. The word choices and how each sentence is structured feels so very deliberate and it truly made the whole reading experience even better and even more haunting. Truly some of the best words and passages I’ve read in such a long while and it was truly a treat every single time I picked up this book, while I also seamlessly fell back into the story.

There is also a major theme and plot of literature and how these five girls are working on different theses. Felicity’s thesis is about misogyny and the portrayal of women in horror literature. Where a new girl named Ellis is working on an entire book, trying to research these murders to help be inspired for her next award winning novel. And because their projects kind of go together (and because they are living in a really creepy house that five women lived before they were murdered) they decide to work together, and Ellis very much wants to prove to Felicity that magic is not real once and for all.

I really loved the constant bringing up of mental health in the past and how women who were not understood (even without mental health struggles) were so easily deemed witches and made them pay for it with their lives. I also just loved how we get to see an unreliable narrator talk about lots of unreliable narrators! Again, the writing in this book is just so well structured and it is so impressive all the building layers.

But this book also centers around some very heavy and important things, like the importance of taking your prescribed medications, and how scary isolation can be and how it can also make you much more susceptible to be abused without necessarily realizing it easily. And also, how much darker things can turn when those two things are happening to you simultaneously!

I just had a really good time reading this, I think it’s not only beautiful but it’s so very important, and the ending will truly leave you screaming.

“…old and rotten tales about missing girls and desolate mountain cliffs, how Felicity Marrow claimed it was an accident, but no one else was there to say for sure.”


Trigger and Content Warnings:
murder, death, gore, violence, grief, loss of a loved one, a lot of blood depiction, rituals, a lot of alcohol consumption (under aged), a lot of smoking, substance abuse, talk of racism, anxiety, anxiety attack, vomiting, self harm (to get blood), talk of suicidal thoughts, actual suicidal thoughts, talk of being institutionalized in past, mention of illness with an elderly family member, lots of mentions of not taking prescribed antidepressants, gaslighting, manipulation, abuse, a situation with sever parental neglect and abandonment, and animal deaths that are pretty dark. in general, this book is very graphic, and have very visceral depictions of struggling with mental health, please use caution!

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