April 2019 TBR

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Hey, friends! How in the heck is it April? Oh my word! Okay, I’m not sure if I’ve said this on the blog yet – but I am going on vacation this month! Well, I’m mostly going to be on vacation in the month of May, but I am officially leaving at the very end of April! Therefore, I am trying to read ALL the things with my friends, because I’m not sure how much reading I’m going to get done in May, because of all the traveling! So pray for me, because this month I am only going to work, sleep, eat, read, and write book reviews!


If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
April 23rd 2019 by Viking Books
Buddy Read with Kayla! 💗

You Must Not Miss by Katrina Leno
April 23rd 2019 by Little, Brown
Buddy Read with Jane! 💗

➽ The Storm Crow (The ​Storm Crow #1) by Kalyn Josephson
July 9th 2019 by Sourcebooks Fire
Buddy Read with AnnaKat, & LaRonda! 💞

Kingsbane (Empirium #2) by Claire Legrand
May 21st 2019 by Sourcebooks Fire
Buddy Read with Julie! 💗

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
The Dragons & Tea April Book Club Pick! 💖

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan
I am reading this for Kathy’s Birthday Buddy Read! 💖

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
June 4th 2019 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Buddy Read with Solly! 💗

Say You Still Love Me by K.A. Tucker
August 6th 2019 by Atria Books
Buddy Read with Heather! 💗

A Prince on Paper (Reluctant Royals #3) by Alyssa Cole
April 30th 2019 by Avon
Buddy Read with Fadwa! 💗

We Hunt the Flame (Sands of Arawiya #1) by Hafsah Faizal
May 14th 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Buddy Read with Ju & Fadwa! 💞

Seven Blades in Black (The Grave of Empires #1) by Sam Sykes
April 9th 2019 by Orbit

Wildwood Dancing (Wildwood #1) by Juliet Marillier
I am reading this for Destiny’s Birthday! 💖

Also! I am going to be participating in FantasyAThon this month, too! So all these fantasy titles (plus hopefully a couple more) I am going to be reading from April 5th – April 15th! Also, I hope to vlog it, so expect a video or two from me on my booktube after those dates, too! Okay, friends! I love you all! Let me know what you are planning on reading this month! And I hope you’re all having the happiest of reading! 💗

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Top Ten Tuesday | Keywords That Make Me Pick Up a Book

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018!

Hey, friends! I kind of put a little spin on this week’s topic. A lot of things will make me want to pick a book up, but the main reason is truly my friends and reviewers that I trust and who have similar reading tastes to me! But I thought it would be cool to tell you all ten words that will always make me want to pick up and support a book!

➽ #ownvoices

➽ Asian Main Characters

➽ Pansexuality / LGBTQIAP+

➽ Fae / Faery

➽ Tavern / Inn / Pub Setting

➽ Morally Grey Characters

➽ Enemies to Lovers

➽ Boarding Schools

➽ Love Triangles

➽ Strong Sibling Bonds


Okay, someone hurry up and combine all of these things into my perfect story, please. But seriously, I love all of these elements so much, and if I’m aware that one or more or these words pertain to a certain book, I will be way more likely to pick it up! What are some keywords that make you want to pick up a story?

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The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2) by Helen Hoang

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ARC provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review.

“It felt too big. At the same time, it didn’t feel like enough.”

The Bride Test is the most anticipated sophomore novel from Helen Hoang, AKA: the goddess who we do not deserve and who gifted us The Kiss Quotient! And this book is following a couple of characters who we originally met in that debut! I didn’t love this installment as much as I did The Kiss Quotient, but I still think that this book is a treasure and that Helen Hoang is a gift to the world.

And like The Kiss Quotient, this is an ownvoices novel, Helen is Vietnamese and is Autistic. And one of my favorite things about this book is seeing the difference of Stella, from The Kiss Quotient, and the main character of this book’s Autism. I think people just like to group marginalized people together and act like their experiences are all the same, and this author does such a wonderful job at truly showing the Autism spectrum and how vast it truly is. This book has a completely different Autistic main character, because everyone’s experiences are different, and I truly loved it more than I have words to express in this review.

Khai Vietnamese, Autistic, Michael’s cousin from The Kiss Quotient, living in California, and completely happy being on his own, especially after losing someone very close to him when he was younger. Even though that loss has made him think that he is incapable of love.

Esme – Biracial (Vietnamese and white), living in Vietnam as a cleaning woman, when Khai’s mom travels there to try to see if she can find a woman who would be compatible with her son. And Esme accepts because she is a single mom, living in poverty with her own mother and grandmother, and she thinks this is an opportunity to give them and herself a better life. Khai’s mother promises her a summer in California, where she can see if she can make Khai fall in love with her and marry her, but if not, she will return back to her family.

But with this set up, the power imbalance always is at the forefront. I always was questioning Esme and her feelings, because she has so much at stake. Also, Esme doesn’t tell Khai about her daughter for far too long, and that also felt extremely bad to me. And it’s always hard for me to root for a romance that is founded on a power imbalance and then also have it harboring such a big secret, especially after the two individuals are choosing to have sex. Now, I will say that the author does such an amazing job at putting consent at the forefront of this story constantly, yet I still could never find my footing on this shaking ground. And because of this, I can’t give this more than four stars.

I will say that, besides always putting consent at the forefront, this story has a lot of other amazing elements. Like, just seeing Esme in a foreign country, doing whatever it takes to make a better life for her loved ones, and seeing her getting the education of her dreams, I am soft and so happy. My favorite part of this book was easily the acknowledgements, where Helen really shares about her personal life and her mother’s personal experience being an immigrant and coming to American in search of a better life. I shed so many tears at how beautiful and powerful these final words were, and it truly was the cherry on an already amazing ice cream sundae.

Also, much like The Kiss Quotient, the family in this book is everything. Quan plays such a major roll in this story, and honestly was the shining light for me. And I am counting the days until we get his book next!

But this is a story about loss and love, yet also healing and becoming the person you want to be, no matter the circumstances. We get to see both Khai and Esme dealing with their own traumas, and healing separately, but we also get to see them building something really beautiful together; a future where they can be accepted and happy. And seeing them realize they were worthy of that love and acceptance all along? So damn beautiful.

“My heart works in a different way, but it’s yours.”

Overall, I just love being in Helen Hoang’s world. From the important elements and themes, to the beautiful diversity and inclusion, to some of the steamiest and most romantic scenes ever, these books are just really easy to fall in love with. I hope she never stops writing, and I hope Berkley signs her for five more books after these five, because she is a gift to the world.

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

Content and trigger warnings for depiction of grief, talk of loss of a loved one, abandonment, and some talk of one’s body/body issues that I think could potentially be a little triggering,

Buddy read with Kathy from Kathy Trithardt & Julianna at Paper Blots! ❤

 

Blog Tour | Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy, #1) by Emily A. Duncan

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ARC given to me by my kind friend – Lilly at Lair of Books!

“If you fall to him the war will be lost. You have to live, Nadya.”

I’m going to be really honest with you all; I feel like Wicked Saints is the book of my heart. From the lyrical writing, to the cold atmosphere, to the beautiful themes, to the characters that I’d already be willing to give my life for; this book just felt like it was written for me. This debut fantasy, all about blood magic and a cleric who can speak to all the gods (be still, my wishful D&D heart), blew me and my expectations out of the water.

The author very much pulls from Russian and Polish inspiration and we get to see two countries, the Russian inspired Kalyazin, and the Polish inspired Tranavia. There is also the desert lands of Akola, which we meet a few characters from, but I think the land will be explored much more in later books! But we quickly see how differently the first two places view religion, and how both nations are willing to do whatever it takes in the name of their beliefs. These two countries are warring, and the author never shies away from that, but they are also beautifully woven together to create such an immersive and captivating world and setting.

“Cannons only meant one thing: blood magic. And blood magic meant Tranavians.”

But this tale starts out with a girl who has lived and hidden within the protection of a monastery’s walls her entire life. She has a power unlike any other, and it is her people’s hope to not only restore the faith of the gods, but bring them back into power. Yet, there are people who are willing to do anything to make sure the gods and their religion(s) stay silenced forever. And one night, the girl’s monastery is brutally attacked, and she and her friend barely escape with their lives, while everyone else stayed back to ensure they could run away. Yet, the war commander prince notices that this girl is not among the dead. The girl, desperate to live and to not have the gods be silenced, is willing to do anything it takes to live. Even if that means getting help from a powerful rebel mage, who is harboring many secrets of his own.

“The girl, the monster, and the prince…”

Nadya – The cleric who can speak to all of the gods.
Malachiasz – A blood mage, who believes he is a monster.
SerefinBisexual icon. Also, a blood mage prince of one of the most powerful realms in this world, but the king is trying to ensure that no one can contest his power, while also wanting to use his son as a martial pawn. He also has a visual impairment and is unable to see out of one of his eyes.

(Breathtaking art by Therese at warickaart!)

And all three of these characters? As morally grey as they come. And they all equally stole my heart. Okay, maybe I have a little bit of a soft spot for Serefin, but I can’t help it, okay? But there is more disability and sexual representation with some of the side characters, and many characters of color. I am truly in love with all the side characters, and I can’t wait to see them develop even more, but Ostyia was easily my favorite and the author confirmed she is a tiny murder lesbian, and I’ve never read anything so perfect in all my life.

Okay, I’m going to spend a little more time talking about Nadya because I truly was obsessed with how the author crafted religion and the saints in this book. First off, I’m Catholic, so you know that I fuck hard with saints, anyways. But, on the opposite end of the spectrum, I have played probably over a hundred D&D campaigns in my life, and I swear to all the gods that I have probably rolled a cleric at least 50 of those campaigns. Seriously, teenage Melanie (and her Pathfinder loving friends) was obsessed with Sarenrae. But reading a book about a cleric who could speak to ALL the gods, and harness their powers if they allowed it? I am quaking. Also, the banter between Nadya and all the different gods, all of whom have very different personalities, was probably my favorite element of the entire book.

Again, this is a very dark book and I implore you to read my trigger and content warnings listed down below if you are on the fence if you are in the right headspace or not. But one of the major magic systems in this book is blood magic, where people will use their own blood (most of the time, freshly cut) and merge it with pages of a spell book to be able to wield their prepared spells and harness their magic. I loved this. I loved this so much. It is something that I feel you see so much in D&D and videogames, but never in literature and I really think it was expertly done and completely made the book for me.

I feel like I should talk about the romance, since I see many early reviewers not loving it as much as I seemed to. I always thought Nadya was the star of this book, regardless of who she was developing feelings for. I mean, you all know I always fall in love with the one the main character doesn’t pick, so there is that, but I still loved the romance in this book. Also, I kind of hinted a bit about this in the character breakdowns, but when Serefin was following the king’s wishes to find a marriage? I was invested, friends. Too invested, probably. But during all the situations, the angst almost killed me, in the best way possible, and I can’t wait to see where the author takes everything in book two. It was the perfect slow burn feeling, while giving us so many breadcrumbs that all tasted delicious.

Overall, this book just had too many things in my personal wheelhouse for me not to completely fall in love with it. I mean, I originally heard this pitched as “a gothic Joan of Arc” and I knew from that moment my life was going to be changed. I think Emily A. Duncan has really crafted such a unique story, and such a beautiful debut and start of a series. I can’t wait to see what comes next, especially because the end of this book truly slayed me and every emotion I have ever had.

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

Content and Trigger Warnings for self-harm (both as a magic system, and talk of self-harm in the past), torture, parental abuse, abandonment, abduction, a lot of alcohol consumption (maybe addiction), gore, violence, and war themes.

Buddy read with Jocelyn at Yogi with a Book! ❤


 

March 2019 Book Haul

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Hey friends! I hope you all are having an amazing end to March! Even though I’m not sure how we are even at the end of March… but regardless, I got some pretty cool books this month! And publishers (especially romance publishers) were too dang kind to me, and I truly am going to be living my bookish romance dream life this Spring!💖


PURCHASED BOOKS:

The Weight of the Stars | Review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Near Witch
The Shadowglass | Review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Steel Prince, Vol. 1 | Review: ⭐⭐⭐
The Priory of the Orange Tree


EARCS FROM PUBLISHERS:

Aurora Rising
The Right Swipe
The Dragon Republic


PHYSICAL ARCS FROM PUBLISHERS:

You Must Not Miss (Thank you Kayla!)
Wilder Girls (Thank you McKinlay!)
The Wedding Party
Girls with Sharp Sticks
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune
Waiting for Tom Hanks
The Red Scrolls of Magic | Review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Thank you Heather!)
Mrs. Everything
Swipe Right for Murder
Holy Sister | Currently Reading



And that’s all of them! Holy moly, this was a much bigger haul than I anticipated! But I am so thankful and so privileged. I hope you all are having an amazing day, and let me know a few bookish acquisitions you got this month! Happy reading, loves! 💖

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Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

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My best friends got me an ARC of this and I love them more than I have words to express! (Thank you so much, Madalyn, Chelsea, & Jane!)

“It is a shame what is happening in this country. And it is a shame that the Church has been so quiet. That all of us have been so quiet. That the world has been so quiet.”

This was one of my most anticipated releases of 2019, and even though I didn’t love it the way that I truly thought I would, I still am going to boost it forever and always because there are a lot of good and important things in these pages, and a lot of things that Americans (and other people not living in the Philippines) need to be educated on.

I don’t want to make my review about me, but just a little information in case you do not follow me or my reviews; I am Fil-Am, and biracial (white and Filipino) just like the star of this book. I also was raised in Michigan and was accepted into The University of Michigan like the star of this book. My father was born in America, but my grandparents did immigrate here from the Philippines as adults. My family are for sure, without question, “Americanized” but I still grew up embracing my Filipino culture and being proud of it. Also, all of my grandma’s family is still living in the Philippines, and she visits them frequently, sometimes alone and sometimes with us.

Regardless, I just wanted to say all of these things to help you realize how much I was anticipating this book. Also, that my heart breaks daily over the war on drugs and the blood that President Rodrigo Duterte and his policies have spilled. Most Americans are not aware of the death toll (or the hidden numbers) that is because police and even regular citizens are allowed and encouraged to kill civilians who are said to be using and selling drugs. From public executions to make examples of people, to children dying and being labeled carriers, to more innocents dying but having drugs planted on them after their death, I don’t even have words for how sick I feel just even typing this paragraph. And so many families are left with heartbreak from loss and not knowing what has happened to their loved ones. And the fear that speaking out can literally cost them their lives.

“So the drug war continues. The body count rises.”

Patron Saints of Nothing follows a boy named Jay, who was born in the Philippines to a Filipino father and American mother, but his family moved to The United States under the pretense of having a better life for their children. Yet, when Jay lived in the Philippines, he was very close with his cousin, Jun, and they have kept up writing letters back and forth to one another their entire lives, even though Jay hasn’t responded in a little while. Heartbreakingly, at the start of this book Jay finds out from his parents that Jun has been killed because of the war on drugs.

Jay cannot for an instant believe that Jun would ever use or sell narcotics, and after a mysterious Instagram message, he asks his parents if they would be willing to allow him to go back to the Philippines to reconnect with Jun’s family after his death. And his parents agree and send him out so he can travel between a few family member’s homes, and that he can reconnect with half of his culture that he has been neglecting. But once Jay arrives in the Philippines, he realizes that there is a lot more to Jun’s death than what meets the eye, and he feels an immense need to get to the bottom of his death and what really happened.

Okay, so I love this premise more than words. And I really did love seeing things through Jay’s eyes and how he felt like he was completely missing out on a culture that he has been away from for so long. From being very aware of his lighter skin, to having a hard time picking up Tagalog, to realizing how fucking privileged US citizens are and getting called out on it; this book has a lot of good and a lot of important themes, and I truly wish I could put it in every American’s hands.

But, sadly, a lot of things I just really didn’t like. And again, everything I’m about to say, please take it with a grain of salt. Closer to release, I plan on boosting so many of my beautiful Filipino reviewing friends’ voices, because their voices are what matter. They not only have to live under Duterte, they will know an authentic Filipino living experience way better than me and any trip I could take with my family, or any whitewashed news article I can read.

I just really disliked how Jun’s storyline, and all the tips and clues Jay was following, ended. And just in general, I really think we should emphasize how just because someone sells drugs or is a drug user, they are still worthy of life and shouldn’t be killed. I mean, yes, it is terrible that children and innocents are dying every single day over this drug war, but it is also awful that people using drugs are dying, too. Sometimes I truly felt like this book, and Jay’s actions, felt very middle grade and very surface level, and we never went past the surface and truly got to see and talk about the horrible things that are taking place. And I’m not saying it is ANY Filipino’s job to educate people on the war on drugs or anything about their culture, but I just feel like had the opportunity to really go there, especially based on the book’s premise, and I was left a little unsatisfied.

Next, I really hated the little romance in this book. Like, I’m never going to be here for grey area cheating in general. But I’m really not going to be here for a seventeen-year-old and nineteen-year-old either. Like, I get that it is legal in a lot of places, and I get that it is only two years, but I just don’t like it and it makes me feel skeezy while reading. Especially with Jay admitting she is part of the reason he makes the choice he does at the end of the book.

And, even though this book is supposed to be set in present day, I feel like a lot of the video game references were really dated. And even though this is such a minor element of the book, it is brought up so many times throughout this novel. And each time I kind of was side-eyeing. No one would refer to Sylvanas as the Queen of the Forsaken, especially not in 2019. I mean, do teenagers really still play World of Warcraft? And acting like people have physical video game collections in 2019, when everything is digital? I don’t know, it just really pulled me out of the story at every mention.

Overall, I am just a little bit disappointed. I still think this is an important read. And I still think seeing a biracial American get in touch with a culture he has felt very out of touch with is really important. And I’m always going to be here for it, truly. I would also die for Jay’s titas right this very second. There is also another mention of a f/f relationship in this book too, and I’m always here for seeing positive sexuality representation in life, but especially in the Philippines. And again, I’m feeling really bad already about writing this review, so I hope you respect my feelings, but I also hope you remember that I am very white passing Filipino who has never actually lived in the Philippines and I haven’t been to the Philippines since Duterte’s election. But if you are a Filipino reviewer, I would be honored to boost your review for this if you link it below!

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

Trigger and content warnings for loss of a loved one, talk of animal death, talk of drugs and addiction, police brutality, talk of human trafficking, grey area/emotional cheating, and assault.

Buddy read with Madalyn from Novel Ink! ❤

Blog Tour Author Guest Post | Dig by A.S. King

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Hey, friends! I know most of you know that I’m a HUGE A.S. King fan! So when Penguin asked if I would want to ask her a question to feature on my blog…. well, I first fangirled for ten minutes, and then I replied back saying yes! And the question that I asked was who is A.S. King’s favorite character in Dig and why! 


This is a hard question to answer when a book has nine main characters and another handful of secondary ones. And because I tend to live in the gray spaces of life, the idea of “favorites” is hard for me. I’m going to answer this from the hip and see what I come up with.

I do love Malcolm. Poor kid. He’s going through a lot and I love his outlook on life, poverty, history, and the future.

I adore CanIHelpYou? because she is both so honest and so not-honest at the same time. She’s being made to live in a house she will never fit into, with a mother who is so abhorrent to her that she will do anything to get out of there, even if it’s not all that legal.

The Shoveler—he’s dear to me because he’s the one who started this whole thing. He was the first teen character to come to me and although he was stubborn and took a while to trust me, he eventually did tell me what was going on. I like how his brain works, even though it may not be the healthiest thing. I’m glad he’s aware of it. His inner-dialogue is authentic.

Oh, Loretta. I never saw her coming. I had no idea what she was about for years as I wrote, but she always had something new to show me. I feel for her. I know she lives in a sort of alternate world and I know why. And that’s sad. But she’s also so darn happy when she’s with her fleas and on stage. I just want to hug her for a year. She’s so precious to me.

But oh, The Freak. She strung me along for years. Didn’t tell me her secrets until page 350. And I love her. I love what she represents and how intensely she loves and how frank and foul-mouthed and smart she is. I can tell you that for me, she was my favorite to write, usually, and I was always excited when she showed up. Even if it made no sense to me at the time.
I should add that I do love Marla and Gottfried for what they reveal about the family as the book goes on. They are not my favorites as people, but since I wrote them very-very first, they are good vehicles for the story and I think they do their job well.

Wow. This sounds like I am reviewing cars or something.

So, it looks like The Freak wins. But only for today. Favorites are fleeting and there are too many to choose from here. But for me, The Freak is the bearer of the right news—all the right news—and she turned out to be the catalyst for so many other parts of the book. When you write the way I do, by the seat of my pants, you need at least one character to lead you. I didn’t know it would be The Freak. I couldn’t figure her out for so long. But once she told me everything, I couldn’t have asked for a better guide.

Thanks for having me on the blog and for asking me this question and making me think about this. I appreciate it! –Amy

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I am so excited to review Dig for you all! I know that it’s probably going to make my best of the year list! Also, it is officially out today! So, I hope you all are able to pick up a copy from a bookstore or the library! Happy reading, friends!

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