Night Shine by Tessa Gratton

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ARC provided by the author

“I would destroy a thousand heart to find you, again and again.”

Sapphic enemies to lovers romance, queer bodyguard and royalty romance, dark fairytale setting! Magic, gender and sexual fluidity, yearning! Demons, dragons, unicorns, lots of cute tiny creatures to love! Atmospheric, lush, purple prose perfection! Are any of these keywords getting you? Because I’m still ready to sell my soul for Tessa’s deleted scenes and notes! Okay, how about the Howl’s Moving Castle comparison that completely is 100% accurate? This book is the book of my heart and dreams. Easily the best book I’ve read in 2020, so far.

At the very start of this story, our main character realizes the prince is missing and chooses to set out on a quest with another to try to locate them. Meanwhile, there is a witch who lives in seclusion in the Fifth Mountain, except when she needs to kidnap beautiful girls to steal their hearts, never stopping until she finds the most beautiful girl of them all.

I feel like I should just make a mini paragraph about demons, because this book is very demon heavy! There are so many kinds of demons in this book (from little ones, to big ones, to part demons like one of our characters), but greater demons live in places of power in this world! There is one in the Fifth Mountain and one living in the palace too! Also, there are other mountains (Second, Third, etc) where other powerful sorcerers live! But let’s get into our actual cast of characters!

➽ Nothing – queer, orphan who can’t remember anything from her past, not even her name, and the only thing she has as a reminder is a scar on her chest. She lives in the royal palace, where she is best friends with the prince.
➽ Kirin – non-binary, queer, crown prince, recently kidnapped
➽ Sky – queer, bodyguard for the royal family, demon-kissed
➽ The Sorceress Who Eats Girls – queer witch who lives in a mountain and waits and won’t give up

“Everyone is capable of being bound. By duty or love or blood.”

And Tessa is being very deliberate in naming our MC Nothing (and the love interest the Sorceress Who Eats Girls)! Words have power, names have power, reclaiming things has immense power, what you choose to give to people has power! We are all products of our surroundings and circumstances, but ultimately only you get to decide who you are, and you get to choose all the parts of you, every single part of you. Sometimes it’s easy to just be nothing or a wicked witch, sometimes picking your own name is the most powerful thing in this whole wide world.

“Everyone can be bigger than they seem, hold more than their bodies are capable of holding. You have always chosen to grow.”

Tessa normally doesn’t use actual terms in their books, but always shows constant multiple gender attraction and a lot of non-binary feels throughout. Honestly, everyone always feels pan in their books to me, but it could be me completely projecting. But we have main sapphic relationship (that is truly to die for), and a male and non-binary / gender queer character relationship (which also made my heart very, very full). But truly everyone reads queer and/or gender fluid, and we all know that gender and sexuality can be so very fluid, and we just love it here a lot. Also, like in true Tessa fashion, there are hints of polyamory and a constant beautiful light of how romantic and platonic relationships can be equally as important and… Tessa’s worlds >>>

“You decide what you are. You.”

Also, all of these characters are flawed and make mistakes and can look villainous! There is a lot of ownvoices rep between these pages, and I think that Tessa perfectly executes villains who just also happen to be queer, instead of… queer villains, if you feel me. There are a lot of questionable actions throughout this book, maybe even some villainous acts, but it’s just done in a very realistic way from these characters and their circumstances. (Okay, maybe not Sky, who is a perfect angel always, imo!)

This book does very gently talk about abuse and toxic relationships and how those things can be very hard to see when the word love is involved. Codependency is also something felt in this book, and how that can also be something that is very unhealthy. We also get to see a lot of power dynamics and power imbalances and how those things are not okay and can easily also become dangerous. But people who really love you, unconditionally love you, will not only wait for you on your journeys, but they will support you and respect your boundaries, too.

“I love you,” the sorceress said. “What you are now.”

But seeing Nothing become the person she wants to be? Despite her past, despite her current situation, despite an unknown future? So very beautiful. And to have someone showing her that she is worth the wait, that she has always been worth the wait, that she never has to be alone, and that she has never and will never ever be nothing. Please, hold me. Forever preferably.

“How strange, how thrilling, to be told your heart is half of someone else’s. A gift from a woman who loved you once.”

The romance in this book is out of this world. The perfect one-liners that Tessa has laced throughout this book? Makes me a bit speechless to even think about. All of you who constantly say you love enemies to lovers, who want to viscerally feel yearning, who want the characters to go through hell and back together, and you want it sapphic? Pick this up! I promise you, Tessa has some of the most gorgeous prose to every exist, and the way they weave these lines together is something of magic. Also, I’ll never eat a pear the same again, on all the higher powers.

My only complaint is that some characters in this world can change their appearance magically, and in the ARC I realized that in the past one character had lighter skin, and now her skin is dark because she altered it that way. I am a biracial person with white skin, but it for sure made me side-eye a bit. But every other aspect of this book was absolutely perfect for me.

Overall, I truly believe this will be my favorite book of 2020, just like how Strange Grace was my favorite book of 2018. Tessa and their worlds, and their characters, and their writing just makes me feel so seen in a way that no other author does. This book means so much to me. Tessa truly gave me the romantic, sapphic, whimsical, love story of my dreams. This story is everything I’ve ever wanted, and I feel like I’ve wanted it for so very long. I also feel like Tessa maybe redefined the word “yearning” and their power is just unmatched. I just want to spend the rest of my life reading their stories over and over again and feeling seen, and happy, and in love. Forever.

“Everything poured into Nothing.”

Trigger and Content Warnings: gore, violence, murder, death, blood depictions, self-harm, magical coercion, kidnapping, incorrect use of pronouns upon meetings someone (is immediately corrected and the character learns and corrects themselves) and war themes.

5

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Buddy read with Maëlys! ❤

Horrid by Katrina Leno | ARC Review

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ARC provided by The Novl
Publication: September 15th, 2020

“Three little girls all eating things they weren’t supposed to eat. Three little girls all eating things in order to fill their bodies with something other than the anger, the rage, that would otherwise consume them.”

I have loved Katrina’s books for so long and each of them are equal parts whimsically beautiful and intensely raw. From Summer of Salt and You Must Not Miss are still my favorites by her, but if you are looking for something very spooky, very introspective, and very profound this fall season, then I really recommend Horrid with my full heart. And this Agatha Christie vibe check will make so many of you happy, I just know it.

Jane has recently lost her father to a heart attack, and her and her mother are forced to leave their California home and move back to her mother’s childhood home in a very small town in Maine. Not only is the shift from west coast to east coast big, because LA and New England are so very different, but it is also the extra hurt from leaving everything she has ever known, and the mystery surrounding her family and the big house that she now has to call home.

Her mother made it a point for them to never travel out east to see where she grew up, and she is very secretive about her upbringing and the reason she left so quickly to the west coast. Yet, after people in town treat Jane a little differently when they realize who her family is (and where she is living), curiosity starts to be peaked. Oh, and especially because the house seems very haunted. From Jane seeing lights turn on upstairs by themselves, to hearing music being played by no one, to having mysterious object interacting with her, to the roses in the garden growing back regardless of how hard her mother tries to kill them.

“I think you’ve had a tremendous loss. And grief manifests itself in unpredictable ways.”

We get to see so much grieving in this book. People grieving their pasts, people grieving loved ones, people grieving the unknown, people grieving so loudly it feels palpable. It is very intense, and it feels very real, and very harrowing. There are truly so many ways to grieve, and so many ways to cope with that grief, and this book very much explores that. And this book very much talks about how the weight of grief can be all consuming and the most heaviest of all things to carry. And sometimes grieving isn’t only sadness and weeping, but it can be anger and violence.

“She felt like her hands didn’t belong to her, like her skin didn’t belong to her. Like the only thing real and true in her body was the anger.”

We also get to see Jane (and other characters) show their anger in very not okay ways. Jane does not handle her triggers in a healthy way, and we also get to see many flashbacks from the past that she has blocked out even. Jane has present day moments of blacking out that really makes her a bit of an unreliable narrator. Yet, I can count on one hand the number of books I’ve read where the main character is dealing (and suffering) from their anger management issues.

Ever since Jane was a young girl, and her feelings and anger were overwhelming to her, she sought comfort by eating pages out her books and then replacing those hollowed out books with fresh pages that she could journal in. Pica is disorder where a human will eat things with no nutritional value for a number of reasons, and there are so many components of this disorder and such levels (from ice to sharp objects to poisonous things!), and sometimes this overlaps with other health conditions (like OCD or anemia), but this is a main component of this book, and I have never experienced this before so I’m not sure how people will feel about how it was represented.

“She imagined the paper re-forming in her belly. She imagined the words dissolving off the paper and sinking into her bloodstream. She imagined her body filled with words. Made up of them. Words instead of blood, words instead of organs.”

I also think there is a discussion to be had about mental health and how genetics can very much pass down mental health issues. Also, how important it is for parents to recognize these signs and be in check with their own mental health, so that they can help their children get help if they need it. This isn’t an easy book to read at times, and I think people are going to feel a vast range of emotions for Jane and her mom, but I think their situation is very real and something that needs to be talked about a whole lots more. Depression, and anger issues, and unhealthy spiral grieving is a hell of a combination, but one that is a big reality for so many.

I have loved Katrina’s writing forever now. I feel like she just has such a gift, and her prose is some of the most beautiful in the whole entire world, truly. Yet, her words are so very raw and so very sharp every book. The combination is quite jarring, and the impact is felt very deeply, and her writing is very unforgettable. In addition to the imagery of this small town, or this extremely spooky house, of all these characters dealing with grief so very differently, the entire atmosphere of this story is perfectly done in my opinion.

The reason this isn’t a five star for me (even though it is so close) is because of the ending. Katrina is notorious for ending books in a way that makes the reader think for themselves and kind of pick the ending they want to see most. Which I do adore so much, but this was one I just wanted a tiny bit more from, because I feel like the ending was actually pretty straightforward for the most part. Like, I truly can’t say anything without completely ruining this spooky tale, and maybe it was the perfect ending for a thrilling tale! But I do know I will be thinking a lot about a teddy bear for many moons to come.

“She leaned into it gratefully, letting it fill her, letting it wash over her in a warm embrace. With it, she was not alone. She was never alone. She let it carry her into darkness.”

Overall, this is just the perfect read for this autumn season if you’re looking for something a little spooky, very beautifully written, with very important themes that I don’t see talked about as much as I wish they were. All of Katrina’s books are just bright lights in the YA genre, even when they are spooky thrillers with a maybe unreliable narrator! I never wanted to stop reading this, and when I wasn’t reading this I was thinking about it nonstop. I really recommend this one with my whole heart, and I can’t wait to see what will come next from one of my favorite authors of all time.

Trigger and Content Warnings: pica (mostly xylophagia/paper, but mention of hair and flowers, too!), loss of a parent, loss of a sibling, loss of a child, talk of hospitalization, intense grief depictions, intense depictions of anger issues, blood depictions, panic attacks, depictions of situations that could make one feel claustrophobic, underage drinking, brief mention of animal abuse in past, child abuse in the past.

4
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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Maëlys❤

#5OnMyTBR | Red Cover

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#5OnMyTBR is a bookish meme hosted by E. @ Local Bee Hunter’s Nook
You can learn more about it here or in the post announcing it. 🐝

All bookish content aside, as I get older I feel like I appreciate the color red more? It might even be my second favorite color at this point in my life? Okay, I don’t really want to have a color crisis, but like the title and this questionable intro suggest, here are five red books on my TBR! Please oh please tell me which one(s) you think I’d enjoy!


The Project by Courtney Summers
Publication: February 2nd, 2021 by Wednesday Books

“When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its charismatic and mysterious leader, Lev Warren, he proposes a deal: if she can prove the worst of her suspicions about The Unity Project, she may expose them. If she can’t, she must finally leave them alone. But as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members, and spends more time with Lev, it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her–to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.”


Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

“When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free. However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.”


Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
Publication: February 23rd, 2021 by Park Row Books

“With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that. This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows.”


Empire of Sand (The Books of Ambha #1) by Tasha Suri

“The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited. When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda.Should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance”


Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

“Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves. Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.”


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花樣年華 HYYH The Notes 1 (The Most Beautiful Moment in Life #1) by Big Hit Entertainment

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Save Me – BTS Webtoon ★★★★★

“Those days were gone and would never come again.”

A little over a year ago I fell completely in love with BTS. I love their music that they pour everything into, their dedication to never give up and always strive for greatness, and their hearts that they choose to show to their fans constantly in everything they do. Stanning BTS was one of the easiest choices I’ve ever made and falling in love with each of these seven humans was nothing short of magic.

Not only are they the biggest band in the whole world (who recently got their first Billboard Hot 100 #1 spot) they also give so much content to their fans! Obviously we get all their music and videos, but we also get so much behind the scenes things, along with their own shows and filmed vacations, to them just interacting with us on twitter and on weverse, to them having their own cartoon characters, and to them having their whole alternative universe!

It is really powerful and really beautiful being able to watch all of these music videos and see these pages truly come to life. They really do also incorporate so many hints and nods at the BU in all of their things, and it’s really impressive. So many times while reading these pages, I could just perfectly visualize what was happening because of all of the mvs!

But basically this is a story about the seven BTS members in an alternative universe where they are not BTS. They all went to school together and met while cleaning for punishment, but they all became close very quickly. That is, until they were all forced to separate for very different reasons, but the timelines can get very dark. Yet, one member has the power to restart, and retry, and relive events to try to save them all, and allow them all to experience safety and friendship and happiness.

BTS -

Seokjin (석진) – Jin truly has an extra heartbreaking storyline, because not only is he dealing with his friend getting taken in the past, he also lost his mother, and is trying to live his life for (and pleasing) his father who sent him away to the US.

Namjoon (남준) – Joon has to work odd jobs (one being at the gas station) to try to pay his dad’s hospital bills. He is from a small village, and likes to pretend everything is okay when it is not. He also has a train container that he seeks solace in and keeps the light on for the boys always.

Yoongi (윤기) – A fire burned down his home, and now he is very self-destructive. He finds comfort in the piano, but is still haunted by a piano key. But music for him will always be hope.

Hoseok (호석) – his mom left him at an amusement park, so he lives in and out of places but mostly the hospital. He finds love in dance, and even though he hurts his ankle, he runs away and travels for a little bit with dancers. Yet, he really is the glue and hope of this friend group, truly.

Jimin (지민) – he has seizures and is hospitalized. Yet, you soon find out that the seizures aren’t the only reason he is being forced to live at the hospital, but because his family wants to hide him away. Jimin loves dancing, and he can’t stop thinking about Green Flower Arboretum.

Taehyung (태형) – Tae is getting abused by his father who is an alcoholic. He for sure has the darkest thoughts about his father and about himself, but we soon realize that Tae also has a power of his own, and that is too see parts of things yet to happen.

Jungkook (정국) – JK’s father abandoned him and his mom, and how he just gets into fights and gets beat up to feel something. Jungkook is so very angry, and himself and at the world, and his chapters were favorite even though I cried every time.

“You must survive […] I must survive”

MV] BTS(방탄소년단) _ Run GIF | Gfycat
All of these boys are dealing (and trying to live with) with so much anger and hurt and abandonment. We get to see them find outlets and healing through the power of dance, and music, and art, and writing. And they are constantly reminding each other that they are good people, and that they are worth more than the horrible circumstances that are placed on them. The power of friendship and the power of finding your soulmates is something I don’t even have words for. Yet, I truly believe BTS would have found each other in any universe and in all the timelines.

Overall, I love this story and I can’t wait to see where it goes. BTS just give us so much, and I’m so happy I was able to reread this before The Notes, Vol. 2 gets shipped out this fall! I was screaming every time Smeraldo was mentioned. I was grinning like an idiot every time we saw white birds, umbrellas, trains, and fireworks. Hell, I even feel for Yoonkookers while reading this. So many dots, and they all just make you think about how BTS really connect everything together. Forever so thankful I live in this world with BTS and all their serotonin-inducing content.

Trigger and Content Warnings: abandonment, abuse, blood, alcoholism, loss of a loved one, self-harm, seizures, talk of suicide, hospitalization, depression depiction, mention of throwing up, and just overall very serious and sad situations that may be hard to picture BTS in. Please use caution while reading!

4
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Buddy read with MaëlysLea, & Amy! ❤

💜 Utilize self-care: Listen to Dynamite

 

The Burning God (The Poppy War #3) by R.F. Kuang | ARC Review

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ARC provided by Harper Voyager
Publication: November 17th, 2020

1.) The Poppy War ★★★★
2.) The Dragon Republic ★★★★★

“Rin had spent so long hating how she felt when she burned, hating her fire and her god. Not anymore.”

The Poppy War trilogy is truly once in a lifetime and this conclusion was honestly a work of art all itself. This series is a military epic fantasy that is ownvoices and inspired from the authors family history and the stories she learned from them. Heavy themes of war, colonization, racism, colorism, genocide, cycles of abuse, and so many different types of trauma are never shied away from. I’ve read and reviewed many books these last six years of my life, and I’m not sure a series has impacted me more than this one. Every sentence has meaning, every chapter is so well planned, every event conveys layers and layers of thoughts and feelings. History is truly created by the victors mostly with the most blood on their hands, and the stories that get told are mostly through a white and colonized lens. R.F. Kuang has done so much with these three books and they mean so much to so many Asian readers.

Okay, okay, let me try to give you a review now! Also, please check out my dear friend Petrik’s review, because he is the reason I requested an ARC of The Poppy War back in early 2018. He is also a Chinese reviewer and his voice means a lot to me! Next, this review is going to be spoiler free for The Burning God, but not for The Poppy War or The Dragon Republic! Please use caution reading this review if you have not read the previous two installments in this series!

(beautiful art of Rin by merijae!)

“She was capable of such cruelties, even without the Phoenix’s power, and that both delighted and scared her.”

Rin and Kitay have had everything in their world turned upside down again at the start of this book, but they are both desperate to reclaim a country that has been taken from them repeatedly. They’ve also both been playing for the winning side for so long, they soon learn that tactics and strategy feel vastly different when you are now the underdogs. Rin has only known destruction for so long, but now she gets to know what it feels like to be a liberator instead of only a tool because of her god.

We really get to see many different sides of shamanism in this book, and I adored that aspect with my whole heart. I feel like I really can’t say a lot here, but the trifecta and the additions were amazing. I will say my only complaint for this book comes from the trifecta, but I still couldn’t get enough of all of the different types of shamanism in this book! Especially with a few new characters who easily made me feel very many emotions while this story progressed!

Speaking of different types of gods, I will say with utmost confidence that The Burning God has the best fight scenes I have ever read. Like, ever, in my whole life. Rin and Nezha just… the imagery, the banter, the emotions, their complicated actions, everything is another tier. Like, the pouring rain and the breathing of fire alone had me burning and drowning in the very same moment. Utter perfection in every combat scene and it was some of the most beautiful words I’ve ever seen strung together. Truly one of my favorite parts of this book, and not to lessen any of the important themes and values, but I don’t think I knew yearning until I read Nezha and Rin on different sides of a war neither want. The buildup of every encounter, every battle, every conversation, I was truly quaking. 

“Hate was its own kind of fire and if you had nothing else, it kept you warm.”

This book very much centers around trauma and the many different cycles and forms. We get to see so many different kinds of trauma from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, but we also get to constantly see the trauma from xenophobia and the impact of racism and colonization. We also get to see the way that many different characters within the book attempt to heal, live, and cope with their different traumas. And even though it is very heartbreaking, it’s very real, and very honest, and very important. I feel like The Burning God especially puts an emphasis on how abuse and trauma can be more easily hidden because of love, duty, and maybe even vengeance, too.

“You don’t fix hurts by pretending they never happened. You treat them like infected wounds. You dig deep with a burning knife and gouge out the rotten flesh and then, maybe, you have a chance to heal.”

And Rin’s trauma is so deep. She always remembers what it felt like the be a war orphan who was looked down upon from the very start. She knows what it feels like to be considered a lesser student because of her skin color and because of where she is from. She is haunted by the betrayal she has endured by the people who she thought she loved. She will never forget all the things she has seen and the price of war. She is realizing all the shit she has been forced to internalize because of the environments she has had to survive in. Rin harness her hate and anger and desire for revenge and keeps it close to her at all times in this book.

“They want to erase us. It’s their divine mandate. They want to make us better, to improve us, by turning us into a mirror of themselves.”

I feel like I could write an entire review on the colonization in this book alone. The reader gets to see the threat of this more and more in each book, but when Rin visits “New City” for the first time, it was harrowing in every sense of the word. Yes, this book is about a horrible and terrible civil war, but the Hesperians are the greatest evil of this whole book. How the Hesperians took over this city, took over the name, took over the foundation, took over the imports and exports, took over the military, all the while trying to convince everyone that it’s for the greater good, that it’s the right and better way, that it’s the only way. This might be the Filipino coming out extra hard, but white people love to colonize everything, but especially the people of the land they try to take, while always reminding them they are and never will be truly equal to them. All of the scenes that truly disturbed me were with the Hesperians, and they so horrifically depicted what has happened to so many countries over and over again, and what is still going on unapologetically in 2020. I could feel Rin’s helplessness with everything I am, and I hope people really process who the villain of this story truly is. Magical gods disguised as dragons, power hungry men, and internalized racism are terrifying, but there aren’t words for people trying to rip the identity of your culture from you.

“There are never any new stories, just old ones told again and again as this universe moves through its cycles of civilization and crumbles into despair.”

This book also emphasizes how the victors get to decide how the history is written. They get to create their own villains, their own heroes, their own story. History books are written by the same colonizers who are still trying to take absolutely everything and make it westernized, hence the fact most people (myself included) were not educated on what was going on in China pre WWII, and what happened when Japan marched on Nanjing.

“When you conquered as a totally and completely as he had, you could alter the course of everything. You could determine the stories that people told about you for generations.”

I’ve had so many people in my DMs on goodreads and on insta asking about my feelings on how this last book concluded, and I never really know how to answer it, but the answer is heartbreaking perfection. I honestly cannot think of a better conclusion, yet I do think that it won’t be for everyone. But as the events in The Burning God unfold, it becomes more and more clear. And I really do think it is a perfect parallel(s) to how things in our world felt then and how they very much still feel now. Also, war is unspeakably hard, but when you’ve lived your life for battle after battle, trying to live after a war is over can be just as hard, just in a different kind of way.

“Take what you want, it said. I’ll hate you for it. But I’ll love you forever. I can’t help but love you. Ruin me, ruin us, and I’ll let you.”

Overall, I’m going to be really honest. I cried while writing this review, and I’m very teary eyed right now with my final thoughts. This series just means so much to Asian readers and reviewers. It was such an honor to read these books, to feel haunted but seen by these themes, to fall in love with Fang Runin over and over again. What a blessing it was to see all three of these characters, walk alongside them, see them change and grow, because of their environments, because of expectations, and because of their damn selves. I truly don’t have the words. From Sinegard, to every battlefield, to the very end. I am rendered speechless. Not only do I think Rebecca is going to redefine so many parts of the book world with her writing (both with this trilogy and all her other endeavors to come), but I think she will inspire and help pave the way for so many Asian authors to come. She truly ended this trilogy perfectly, I’m just not ready to say goodbye, but I am so eternally honored for this series existence, and I truly will sing it’s praises forever.

5

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Trigger and Content Warnings: animal abuse, animal sacrifice, animal death, colonization, dark torture, dark murder, death, racism, genocide, colorism, sexism, assault, talk of rape, talk of sex trafficking, talk of being buried alive that I feel could be claustrophobia inducing, talk of suicide, abuse, talk of abuse in past, PTSD depiction, grief depiction, so many traumas depicted very hauntingly, talk of drug addiction, drug use, drugging against people’s wills, bombings, self-harm, forced captivity (also claustrophobia inducing, I feel), panic attacks, blood depiction, talk of genital mutilation (to people who committed bad acts), cannibalism, talk of kidnapping in the past, talk of a graveyard devoted to children, mention of miscarriages and abortions, mention of shock therapies, mention of unwanted medical experimentation, starvation and famine, and just overall very dark war themes. This book does not shy away from all aspects of war, and can be extremely hard to read at times, please use caution and make sure you’re in the right headspace! (Please credit me if you copy paste these trigger warnings! It takes a lot of time, energy, and labor for me to try my best to help ensure the people who read my reviews have the safest reading experience possible! You just read a review (and book) about colonization, don’t steal an Asian reviewer’s work! Thank you!)

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

Buddy read with Maëlys❤

August 2020 Wrap Up

WrapUp8

Hey friends! How was your August? I hope it was good and safe and filled with health and love. August was for sure the best month I’ve had in 2020 and I’m feeling very thankful and very happy! But… I’m going to be cautious and not jinx anything, haha! But I promise, a birthday book haul soon! August was also a very good reading month for me and I was able to read a few five star stories, too! And I feel like one of these will for sure make my top five books of 2020! Can you guess what it is? It rhymes with: yearning odd.

Well Played (Well Met #2) by Jen DeLuca ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Publication: September 22nd 2020 by Berkley
Listen, I am truly just such a sucker for a renaissance faire setting and romance! I dint love this one as much as Well Met, but I enjoyed it immensely while wanting book three desperately!

Fire (Graceling Realm #2) by Kristin Cashore ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Buddy read with Lea! ❤
This was such a treat to read with Lea, because it is one of her favorite series of all time. But I really loved this one and how different (and powerful) the story felt. Cashore was really ahead of the game with the themes in their books, and it really helps make them hold up extremely well!

The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2) by R.F. Kuang ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The way I think that this might be my favorite in the series, which I feel like is a little bit of an unpopular opinion! But this was a masterpiece of a middle book and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Loveless by Alice Oseman ⭐⭐
I’m going to implement self-care right now and just never talk about this book again, but I suggest you check out Maëlys & Lea’s reviews! 😊

HYYH The Notes 1 (The Most Beautiful Moment in Life #1) by Big Hit ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Buddy read with MaëlysLea, & Amy! ❤
Have you all listened to Dynamite yet? Whew. Listen, I kinda just couldn’t get enough of BTS content this month, and it helped make August so very special. Also, #1 Billboard Hot 100 for the first time? We truly love to see it. And…. we love to read about their alternate universe where the members are all dealing with different types of abandonment, while trying to grow and heal with each other and their love and their love for different arts.

Vampires Never Get Old edited by Zoraida Córdova & Natalie C. Parker ⭐⭐
Publication: September 22nd 2020 by Imprint
Buddy read with DestinyMaëlys, & Lea! ❤
Listen, I wanted to love this so badly because of the author list alone. Yet, sadly, this just fell so short for me. I was so disappointed with the vast majority of these stories.

One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns #2) by Kendare Blake ⭐⭐
I feel like I just waited way too long to continue on with this series, because this book felt so pointless. Also, all the high-risk situations? They never felt high-risk. I just want to block this out of my mind, and I do not think I will continue on with this series.

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
This was our August 2020 pick for the Dragons and Tea Book Club! 🐉☕
The way this was perfection. From cultural appropriation, to “the model minority”, to all the different kinds of racism, to being queer in a less accepting culture, this book had everything and it was a completely joy to read. I loved this. I promise a full review before the end of the year.

The Burning God (The Poppy War #3) by R.F. Kuang ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Publication: November 17th 2020 by Harper Voyager
Buddy read with Maëlys! ❤
Am I still crying? I think? Help. Okay okay, seriously though, this ending was perfect, and I absolutely cannot wait to see how everyone reacts when this book comes out. There was one thing that bothered about this concluding novel, but the rest was perfection. The themes of colorism and the themes of colonization are the best I’ve ever read in my life. This series means so much to me, and I hope it wins everything because it’s a masterpiece.

Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch (Eva Evergreen #1) by Julie Abe ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Buddy read with Maëlys! ❤
This was the sweetest and most heartwarming read I’ve read all year. Eva and her friends and their unconditional love and support were just everything. They truly created a magic all on their own, and I can’t wait to see what Eva does next. Also, the settings and imagery in this book was a tier above. Other witch and wizard books are quaking, I promise.

When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Buddy read with Maëlys! ❤
This book had it all, from gentrification and the many systems that are stealing land, and buildings, and lives still in 2020, to police brutality, to a vast array of different microaggressions, this book is going to make a lot of white and non BIPOCs uncomfortable, and I hope they sit in that uncomfortably (especially Americans). I didn’t love the end of this one, but I adored the first 80% so very much!

Horrid by Katrina Leno ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Publication: September 15th 2020 by Little, Brown
Buddy read with Maëlys & Lea! ❤
I am in the middle of writing my review for this one right now, and it is going to be a hard one to talk about without giving anything away. But this book was so eerie and atmospheric and I never wanted to put it down. Sadly, I just didn’t love the end of it. But I really adored the build up and Leno’s writing will always very much be my exact cup of perfectly brewed tea.


Whew! Quite the month, aye? Blessings all around, truly. Tell me what was your favorite read of August! And I hope September is treating you kindly and you are having lots of amazing reads so far (and for always)! Happy reading, friends! 💗

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Books I Want to Read because of Maëlys


*in love screams*
Hey, friends! Today is one of my most favorite humans in the whole wide world’s birthday! I couldn’t possible condense how much I love and appreciate her into a single blog post, but I thought it might make her smile to see a few books I have on my TBR because of her. 🎂

If you’re looking for a book reviewer who boosts marginalized identities and voices (while having such a powerful voice herself), who has some of the most intelligent and eloquent writing (truly gives me goosebumps constantly), who is just so very kind and charming and sweet and thoughtful (I’m truly her biggest fan, ama), and who just has some really amazing taste in literature, then you should all follow Maëlys and have her and her writing bless your lives. ✨ Goodreads | Booktube | Twitter


Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig

✨ Maëlys gifted me this for my birthday in 2019 and it meant /a lot/ to me.

“Finding this community was a breath of fresh air and like finally being my true queerest self. And I think this book really portrayed this side of drag. That it’s a place where we can find ourselves and make our own family and support system when sometimes it isn’t entirely possible elsewhere.”


Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

✨ I really wanna brush up on my French accent, because Maëlys really enjoys it. :]

“Les Misérables is one of those books that made me hold in a breath at how impactful and beautiful the writing is. This book showcases the social injustices and inequalities of 19th century France which are tragically still relevant to today’s society and how love can be nurtured into hope and a better life. I think it also highlights how change can be fostered in many different ways (from a single kind act to fully blown out insurrection) and asks a lot of questions about right and wrong. I would give my life for any of the Les Amis de l’ABC but my personal emotional support revolutionary boy is Combeferre. This book is heart-wrenching and beautiful and I’ll happily shed many more tears over it in my lifetime.”


The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon 

✨ This is actually the #1 book that reminds me of Maëlys! (I blame it maybe being the first booktube video I saw of hers!)

“I always feel some type of way when I can find a badass brown woman who I can relate to on a deeper emotional level and Ead was the one for me. She was careful, kind, generous, honest yet secretive, had a smart-mouth when she wanted to, so fucking badass, and queer. It honestly makes me want to tear up a bit when I think of her character and how much I relate to her on so many levels.”


The Rise of Kyoshi (The Kyoshi Novels #1) by F.C. Yee & Michael Dante DiMartino

✨ I see anything ATLA related and I think of Maëlys.

“She is used to downsize herself, try to blend in, be normal, be anything but special. She hasn’t had the easiest life, having to grow up on her own, abandoned by her parents, ignored but the townsfolk and bullied by their children. She despises her birth parents and is travelling the world with murder on her mind. She is an angry and vengeful Avatar and it makes so much sense as to how she ended up being the utilitarian icon we know from the show. I love and will protect my favourite tall lady with my life.”


The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara

✨ The real reason this book reminds me of Maëlys is because I would always see it when I went to her Goodreads.

“While this book explored shared pain, trauma and struggles, it managed to showcase individual stories and keep distinct characters. […] There was so much love to be found in those moments and a deep sense of understanding between them no matter their differences. They came together, stronger that way than if they stayed alone, and built a home in the safety of each other.”


The Fever King (Feverwake #1) by Victoria Lee 

✨ I love Maëlys and this author and she read this book in a day so I believe a powerful combo is here, and I truly can’t wait to read this one and this might be the one I feel the most sure I’ll give five stars to.

“The complexity of this book resided in the characters, their dynamics and the politics of this setting which was brilliantly executed. The pacing also allowed the story to explore topics extremely relevant to today’s society without rushing over these important points and let them sink in.”


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

✨ This is one of the books Maëlys recommended when we were doing BTS recommendations and it always stuck with me and really impacted more than she probably knows.

“I can see why this book has become a classic and gets recommended by so many people. The storytelling was incredibly efficient and yet retained a beautiful whimsical glow. It also left me incredibly motivated to follow my dreams and live my best life.”


The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal

✨ Me and Maëlys share upset tummy anxiety and we hate it here (or maybe we love it here, I’m not too sure, but I know we are 100% here, upset tummy stress vibing)! Also, women in STEM dots, always, too.

“…this book did remind me of the things that made me fall in love with it in the first place. The topic just really resonated with me and there were a few moments where I teared up because I know how much this book would’ve meant to me a few years ago.”


Aru Shah and the End of Time (Pandava Quartet #1) by Roshani Chokshi

✨Just me trying to project me and Maëlys’ identities into this book and everything else. I might have to write my own story about a certain island though.

“Aru is a lonely girl who doesn’t fit in at her school and whose mum seems to leave her to her own devices a lot. So she finds refuge in lies and stories to get through life a bit more unscathed, to pretend she’s not on her own. Trouble doesn’t accidentally find her, she sets everything in motion herself. Aru has her faults but she’s so brave and does ultimately want to do the right thing, when she can grasp what the right thing is.”


Not the Marrying Kind by Jae

✨ This is one of the very first books Maëlys ever recommended to me (we love a pan baker)!

“This was just a very cosy read from the bakery to the flower shop and the local bar where everyone hangs out. There are also two lovely dogs making an appearance. This isn’t a Christmas book by any means but it still somehow has this holiday book feeling.”



I hope you all enjoyed this extremely niche blog post! Maëlys, and her friendship, has meant so much to me these last two years, and I feel so very blessed to get to love her! She really is always there for me, and always loving and supporting me unconditionally. She truly deserves all the stars in every galaxy, and I hope she has the best birthday in the whole wide world, and hopefully in 2021 we can celebrate a little more magically than an extremely niche blog post! 💗

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