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❤

When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole | ARC Review

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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Publication: September 1st, 2020 by William Morrow

✨ Reviews you should check out: Bee’s, Jazmen’s, Carole’s

I have adored everything Alyssa Cole has written, so when I heard about this new mystery thriller I knew it would make my most anticipated releases of the year list! I enjoyed this immensely and I hope people read this and fall in love with this thriller, but I hope they also realize how deeply rooted racism and systems built on racism are still thriving because of racism.

When No One Is Watching switches back and forth between Sydney and Theo’s POV. Sydney is Black, recently divorced, and recently moved back to NY to help her mother who is ill. They have a brownstone in Brooklyn and the neighborhood and the neighbors mean a lot to her. Theo is white and recently moved into Sydney’s neighborhood and is currently living with his abusive ex-girlfriend while they try to renovate this home Sydney is trying to put together a more extensive compilation of the Black history from her neighborhood so she can do a tour, and Theo volunteers to help her. Meanwhile, more and more Black people in the community are going missing, and more and more white people are moving in acting as if they have always owned the neighborhood.

It is never a Black authors job to educate you, but Alyssa Cole truly and unapologetically talks about the privilege that white and non BIPOCs have. From gentrification and the many systems that are stealing land, and buildings, and lives still in 2020, to police brutality and who they are willing to protect and who they are willing take everything from, to the vast different microaggressions they are forced to endure every single day. This book does not shy away from anything, and I hope it makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and I hope they sit in that uncomfortably and begin to check their privileges.

This book has a lot of scary parts, but the scariest part of all is how this country really is still running on racism and slavery, just a different (more well hidden) kind of racism and slavery. From prison systems, to the police forces, to huge corporations and all their different investments. It’s not even well hidden, people just don’t want to see, because they don’t want to be uncomfortable, and they don’t want to change a system that is working in their favor too. But friendly reminder that you can’t be compliant with racism and racist systems and not be racist.

Overall, I really loved 80% of this book, but the ending was way too rushed for me. I just felt a bit unsatisfied with how a few storylines and character’s stories went (and I wanted to know so much more)! But I still think this was such a powerful read, and a shining star in 2020 literature. Alyssa Cole is a gift to this world (and all the genres) and I hope you all pick this one up!

Trigger and Content Warnings: gentrification, racism, so many microaggressions, talk of slavery, loss of a loved one, a lot of talk of financial debt, (medical) debt harassment, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, talk of cheating in the past (not the main characters), talk of domestic abuse in the past, themes of abuse and cycles of abuse, talk of institutionalization, murder, attempted abduction, brief mention of animal abuse, brief mention of suicide, forced medical experimentation, talk of drug addiction, threats of calling ICE and the police, and police brutality.

4
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Buddy read with Maëlys & Penny! ❤

 

The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2) by R.F. Kuang

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1.) The Poppy War ★★★★

“Our world is a dream of the gods. Maybe they have other dreams. But all we have is this story unfolding, and in the script of this world, nothing’s going to bring [him] back to life.”

This was a masterpiece. I really loved The Poppy War, but this second installment was the book of my dreams. I’m a bit speechless, and I am not sure I can express exactly how much this story meant to be, but I shall try. Especially because that means I can start my ARC of The Burning God and immediately start crying for another 500 pages.

This series is an ownvoices Chinese inspired military fantasy, and this sequel, The Dragon Republic, picks up after the dark events in book one.I am going to try to be a little vague about the plot in this review, and just focus on the important themes and discussions, while also talking about the characters who own my entire heart. But this book very much focuses on shamanism, and I was very invested from the first to last page!

You may also all call me president of the Fang Runin defense and protection squad. I live my life for one sneaky snake, and it is her. Also, Kitay, my baby, will love and cherish and protect at all costs. Also, seeing the way that this world has changed him has broken me beyond repair, but his friendship with Rin means everything to me. Not at the way I was praying for his life throughout the last half of this book though.

Next, I was already sailing on this ship in part two of The Poppy War, but let’s talk about how rinezha is my new OTP of all time. Like, I cannot believe. I truly don’t want to get into spoilers for the middle book of this series, but when I tell you the end of this book had me gasping for air like a fish out of water, I’m not lying. The forehead kiss will haunt me until the end of my days, I promise you.

(the most breathtaking arc by paper-ish)

Seeing Nezha try to live his life for his family, for his country, for something within him, and for his immense loss that he is still harboring, is just heartbreaking. Rage and grief can take so many forms, so very differently. Carrying things you didn’t ask for can be the heaviest of all burdens, but the way my heart breaks double for Nezha. I think we all can feel like sometimes something is living inside us, but seeing him and Rin both try to live these lives that they are now forced to live is very harrowing and you can’t help but feel all the empathy in the world for them. (And I can’t help but ship them until my last dying breath!)

Something that I really love how it was depicted in this book was Rin’s healing. Rin is dealing with the aftermath of all the actions she committed, and she is living with immense grief, immense depression, immense trauma, and immense PTSD. I feel like so many times in stories we get to see characters “heal correctly” or whatever our society deems is correct. Yet, we get to see Rin make “bad” choices in her healing process. From drug addiction, to denial, to darker thoughts even. Yet, this is such a real depiction of trauma and grief, and one that we normally never get to see, especially in a fantasy setting. Rin is so rightfully angry, and her pain is so loud, you hear it unapologetically, and I loved it a lot.

“She was afraid that if she stopped being angry, she might crack apart.”

The Dragon Republic really focuses more on colorism more than The Poppy War did. Yes, we got to see Rin getting treated as lesser because of her darker skin, but in this second installment we really get to see how colorism runs rampant in this whole world, not just in small towns, or private school settings, or military branches. And Rin calls other characters out on this, and my heart was soaring, truly. Also, just the entire discussion of xenophobia at the heart of this story, while also always highlighting colonization, is so important and I can’t wait to see all of this discussed even more in The Burning God.

“Rin was so tired of having to prove her humanity.”

Another thing that I also really loved about The Dragon Republic is that it really showcases how bad things don’t only happen on battle fields. Humans are capable of terrible, horrible, evil things, and they don’t need to use war as an excuse. The backdrop of war will only ever be a backdrop, and heinous acts can be committed in the safest seeming of cities and places. Again, not to get into spoilers but every scene with Petra left me shaken to my very core. I’m not sure if I’ve ever felt so deeply uncomfortable over a character ever, and it’s truly a testament to this story.

I feel like at this point I am witnessing Rebecca Kuang become a literary legend. The themes she isn’t only touching upon, but she’s completely dissecting. Her writing is truly so out of this world it’s mind-blowing to think how this is her first series, and how many more series she will be able to craft if she wishes to do so. Her characters are so beautifully flawed, and raw, and grey, and real, that I forget they only live between these pages.

It’s an honor to read and review these books. Also, I’m just so proud that a young Asian girl is putting all these old, crusty, white, cis, SFF men to shame. And I truly believe this is a once in a lifetime series, but I more so even believe that Rebecca Kuang is once in a lifetime author.

Trigger and Content Warnings: genocide, colonization, racism, colorism, murder, substance addiction, grief, PTSD, depression, talk of suicide, suicide, self-harm, abortion, talk of rape, rape, forced medical examinations, human experimentations, humiliation, animal death, animal torture, loss of a loved one, genital mutilation (to a character who was doing a bad thing), abandonment, violence, gore, and war themes. This is a very dark book at times, please use caution and make sure you are in the right headspace, friends!
5

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(Extra special thank yous to my 2 emotional support bbies: Maëlys & May! Who both got to laugh at me for spiraling about tridents, got to listen to my heavy breathing over my OTP, and also crying as every theme developed. I’m sorry & I love you.) 💕💕

Blog Tour | The Never Tilting World (#1) by Rin Chupeco

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ARC gifted to me by Olivia! Thank you!

“When the dead find words, the goddess and the Devoted son will meet atop a fish not a fish, on a sea not a sea. It is she who travels to the endless Abyss, and it is he who guides her.”

It’s no secret that Rin Chuepco is one of my favorite authors of all time. I have supported and loved every book I’ve picked up by them, but I was still apprehensive how they were going to top The Bone Witch Trilogy, which is one of my favorite series of all time, but friends, The Never Tilting World might be my new favorite Rin Chupeco book. And this was such a perfect start to this duology.

This book was originally pitched to me as Mad Max meets Frozen, and even though that sounds like the wildest of comparisons, it totally is true. The world of Aeon is separated into two cities after “the breaking”. Two goddesses have raised these two girls, while keeping secrets and never allowing them to know that they are twins and that their sibling is alive. Yet, monsters are breaching both shores

Two Dying Cities:
Aranth – Never ending night, cold, and frozen everything.
The Golden City Never ending day, heat, and chaos.

Two Powerful Girls:
Haidee – Has a love for mechanical engineering and is expected to marry soon.
Odessa – Lesbian, chronically ill, and I will protect at all costs.

Two Traveling Companions:
Arjun – Disabled (missing a hand), a rogue rebel, and likes Haidee.
Lan – Bi, has PTSD, healer and bodyguard for Odessa. (Also, best library meet-cute ever!)

Honestly, Lan is probably my favorite character and seeing their journey to love and heal was really so beautiful that it makes me cry just thinking about it. Truly one of the best fictional characters I’ve had the pleasure to read about in a really long while. Rin also always gives their readers the best romances, and this book was no different. I was in love with both romantic subplots in this book, but Lan and Odessa’s f/f relationship meant everything to me (who is surprised?). Also, Rin confirmed they are Gryffindor and Slytherin and *chef kiss* you all know that’s the best pairing. But Haidee and Arjun are the best Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw m/f to probably ever exist, too.

But both of these two pairings go off on separate journeys, trying to uncover secrets that have been hidden from them their whole lives, while also willing to do anything to save their people.

This book is for sure a metaphor for how the time is truly ticking until our own world becomes uninhabitable, while we all live in opposite ends of the spectrum of constant day and night. There are monsters in this book, but the most terrifying aspect is the waters rising too fast and the ice coming in too quickly, which threaten to erase an entire city. While another city cannot provide for their people because nothing will grow, therefore they have to be sealed away hoping to gain more time before everything dies. Rin also always celebrates the Filipino culture in all of their books with all their themes. Also, I always view all of Rin’s characters as Asian, unless stated otherwise.

“We’re chasing a dying sea under an endless sun that kills us with a thousand little cuts every day. There’ll be nothing left soon. Nothing but sand and bone.”

This story also is truly a love letter to womanhood, motherhood, and sisterhood, and how those powerful bonds can scare men. The feminist undertone is constant in this story, and the parallels to our world is also impossible to not see. Again, the world doesn’t deserve Rin Chupeco and their stories, and please protect them at all costs.

“A demoness is what they call a goddess that men cannot control.”

I will say that I know this magic system, world, and world building isn’t going to be for everyone. Just like Rin’s other works, people are going to say that it is too complex and the learning curve is too steep, and that’s valid. I will be the first to say that I always just feel instantly connected to Rin’s work and their stories, but I know that is not the case for everyone, so here is your warning.

But overall, this was really just the perfect book from me. From the goddesses, to the deities, to the themes, to the Filipino culture blended in beautifully and seamlessly it was all just perfect for me and everything I look for in literature.

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

Content and Trigger Warnings: PTSD depiction, violence, gore, mention of sexual assault, talk of death, and war themes.

Buddy read with Alexa! ❤ (This buddy read meant so very much to me and I just really love Alexa so much and I’m so thankful for her friendship and her voice!)

And thank you so much Shealea for putting this amazing blog tour together! (You’re the best, bb!) ❤


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

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

Find out more about Rin over on: websiteGoodreadsInstagramPintrest and Twitter!


Blog Tour | Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi

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ARC acquired at Book Expo in exchange for an honest review.

“Trying to get better at the thing you want to be the best at is humiliating.”

Hello to my favorite contemporary of 2019. Friends, this book was so quiet, but so loud, and really impacted me more than any other book I’ve read all year. This is the type of story that makes you want to see the world, the type of story that heals wounds you didn’t know you had, the type of story that makes you feel seen and loved and realize you are worthy of unconditional happiness, and the type of story that will make you want to find that happiness and hold on to it with both hands. I know I probably sound so very cheesy, but this really is the type of book that you close and you just want to be a better person, and want to live a happier life, and it’s a reminder why books truly have the power to change lives. I loved this book with the sum of my being, and I’ll carry it with me and pass it along for the rest of my life.

This is a book that borderlines on Young Adult and New Adult, about two characters who find each other while they are at the crossroads of trying to find themselves, too. They have very different backgrounds, and very different current living situations, but they both bond over the unknown and the bursts of happiness that they feel while communicating with each other.

Pablo Neruda Rind – biracial (Korean and Pakistani), 20, working at a bodega in NYC, was an actual meme and now has a little bit of Instagram success because of it, and is thinking about going back to college after dropping out with a large sum of debt following him.

Leanna Smart – biracial (Mexican and white), 22, childhood star now pop singer, and trying to be happy with the content she is putting out in the world.

And one very late night, while Pablo is working in the bodega, Leanna comes in and their lives change. They are both searching for happiness, in very different ways and very different forms of outlets, but they start to think that maybe they can also find happiness together.

And Mary HK Choi delivers a story that is so beautifully written, so heartfelt, so very real, that I won’t forget it, ever. Some of the themes and discussions in this book are so important and I truly think this story is going to change lives. I feel like I normally only read one book a year that changes my life, and I think that this year’s is without a doubt Permanent Record.

Seeing Pablo question what he wants for his life, while also entering into depression because of this overwhelming debt he has accumulated because of doubt and uncertainty is something that I’ve never read about before. Never has a book really forced me to understand that Americans truly expect seventeen-year-olds and eighteen-year-olds to make choices that will impact them financially (and so many other ways) for the rest of their lives. Graduating college with 100k debt is the reality that so many people in their young twenties have, but so many also have that debt without a degree as well. It’s heartbreaking, truly, that we put this pressure on young adults and that we expect them to know how they want to spend their lives at such a young age, while also feeling that weight from society, from schools, and from their families.

“God, this country. It’s so predatory.”

And people have so many options that don’t involve school. Sometimes people find happiness chasing dreams that don’t require degrees. Sometimes people find happiness becoming celebrities in many different forms. Yes, sometimes people do find happiness with a degree that will help them live the life with the job they want. But sometimes people will find happiness simply by being on the journey of searching for happiness in the first place. There is no wrong way to find happiness, and it can be so very hard to find, but it is always so important that you search for it, because you’re so deserving of it.

I think Pablo and his situation is such a reality for so many. Finding happiness, and determination, and inspiration… it can be so very hard. And Pablo, much like many of us, is someone who doesn’t make it easy. This book, in my eyes, is also a love letter to depression awareness and how depression can come in many forms unknowingly. Pablo’s life and struggle, both academically and with his loved ones, was something so very raw, and I was so easily able to connect with, and I think many others will feel like that too. Because sometimes the weight of other peoples’ expectations can be so very heavy.

“Life isn’t a destination. It’s the continual practice of things that make you wiser and happier.”

This is ownvoices for the Korean representation, but I just want to touch on how I really loved seeing Leanna and Pablo talk about them both being biracial. It was so important and meaningful for me to see characters talk about how they are both of their races, instead of half and half. This seems like such a simple concept, something that should be easy for me to say, “hello, my name is Melanie and I’m Filipino” but it is something that I really struggle with, and I always want to break my racial identity of being Filipino and white up in percentages as a kneejerk reaction when talking about myself. And this small conversation between Pablo and Leanna just really meant so very much to me, and really hit me extremely hard. Also, just seeing Pablo having a tough time not feeling as connected to parts of his identity was really important and moving, too.

And, like always, seeing an older sibling help take care of their younger brother is something that will always resonate with me and inside my heart. Pab’s entire family dynamic really was perfection actually, because I feel like in literature, we either get really horrible parents or really perfect parents; we never really get the messy in between, where parents are supportive and loving but have a hard time showing their love and support.

Overall, I just really loved this book and it means so very much to me. The messages in this book really are life changing and I truly wish I could put this book in everyone’s hands. I feel like, much like Emergency Contact, this could be a polarizing book, but I also think it is a book that is going to touch and impact so many. I know a lot of people probably won’t love the ending, but I truly thought it was perfection and really made this book standout as a true masterpiece. And if you read through this whole review, I hope you know that I appreciate you, and that it is never too late to follow your dreams and find the happiness you deserve. Oh, also, be warned that the mention of all the snacks in this will make you extremely hungry.

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

Content and Trigger Warnings: anxiety, debt, the debt crisis, credit debt, bill collectors, talk of sudden death briefly, talk of cancer, minor scene involving childhood cancer and the Make A Wish foundation, depression, codependency, and talk of assault (unwanted touching).


About the Author:

Mary H.K. Choi is a writer for The New York TimesGQWired, and The Atlantic. She has written comics for Marvel and DC, as well as a collection of essays called Oh, Never Mind. Her debut novel Emergency Contact was a New York Times bestseller. She is the host of Hey, Cool Job!, a podcast about jobs and Hey, Cool Life!, a podcast about mental health and creativity. Mary grew up in Hong Kong and Texas and now lives in New York. Follow her on Twitter @ChoitotheWorld.

Blog Tour Schedule:

August 26th – Vicky Who Reads

August 27th – Adventures of a Book Junkie

August 28th – Utopia State of Mind

August 29th – Read by Tiffany

August 30th – Rich in Color

August 31st – Your Tita Kate

September 2nd – Books on Pointe

September 3rd – Andi’s ABCs

September 4th – Book Scents

September 5th – Twirling Pages

September 6th – Bookshelves & Paperbacks

September 9th – YA Bibliophile

September 10th – Mary Had A Little Book Blog

September 11th – Chasing Faerytales

September 12th – Nicole’s Novel Reads

September 13th – Mel to the Any

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

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💛 Please check out Johely’s amazing, ownvoices review!

“And so at the age of four, I learned someone could cry from a happy memory.”

With the Fire on High is an ownvoices story, following an Afro-Latinx main character named Emoni. Emoni is a young mom, who got pregnant her freshman year of high school, but this book takes place during her senior year, and her school just opened up registration for a culinary class. Emoni has loved cooking and crafting recipes her entire life, but she is apprehensive to sign up for the new class because at the end of the year there is a trip to Spain that she doesn’t think that she can afford.

Emoni lives with her abuela, and even though her daughter’s father is in her daughter’s life, he does not help out with expenses and money is very tight, along with Emoni’s free time. She is always working part time at a burger joint, and for sure doesn’t have time to even think about dating, until a new boy comes to the school, and joins the brand-new culinary class.

Elizabeth Acevedo’s writing is just on another level. Her passages and one-liners leave me breathless and speechless. You can tell that she puts her entire heart and soul into every line she delivers, and it just makes this entire book shines so very brightly.

And the themes, from being a young parent and motherhood and what it means to be both of those things when people judge you for them constantly. To how sometimes family aren’t able to be what you wish they were, whether that means closer in distance and/or support. To being mixed race, and how Emoni’s Puerto Rican half will never erase her Black half, regardless of what ignorant people choose to say.

“The whole of me is whole.”

This is a story about connecting with your culture(s), and loving all of the parts of yourself, through food and through family, and it’s honestly so expertly done and so beautifully executed. Reading this entire story made me crave so many of the recipes that Emoni was making, but it made me crave my family’s food and company so very fiercely. Upon finishing, I actually went to the store, came home, and made Pancit and felt so very happy and so very whole.

Overall, this is just such a beautiful book with such a beautiful message. From feeling the closeness to Emoni, both naturally and her trying her hardest, to seeing the closeness of a community come together, it just made for such a powerful read and really left me feeling every emotion. Elizabeth Acevedo is a gift to the world and I can’t wait to read everything she will ever write.

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Content and Trigger Warnings: Abandonment, loss of a loved one in the past, medical anxiety/scares, talk of abortion, underage drinking, and use of the word g*psy that is 100% completely challenged.

Blog Tour | The Black Veins (Dead Magic #1) by Ashia Monet

Goodreads | Amazon US | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

ARC provided by the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

“The magic wakes at midnight. It arrives in the form of a song.”

The Black Veins is a YA debut that you are not going to want to miss. This story is set in an alternate version of our world, where a young girl and her family have planted secure roots to protect themselves, their home, and their magic. They run a magical coffee shop that only other magic wielders can see, because if you speak about magic to Common people, the Erasers will come and… erase you. You will never be heard from again, and they are always watching. But the world seems relatively safe.

That is, until one night when Blythe, our main character, is dreaming about a voice in her head, one that is also trying to get her to do something that she does not want to do. Blythe has always known that she was destined to do great things with her magic, even if she doesn’t harness that magic yet. But after her family is attacked and kidnapped, she is forced to get any and all help that she can.

And in this world, there are two magical governments, and a war is beginning:

Black Veins – Old government, who rules the majority, and they have a city called Frost Glade which is supposed to be the safest city of them all, where the Sages’ castle sits.

Trident Republic – New government, the rebels, and they only have one city: Electric City.

And there are seven types of magic that magicians can harness. Yet, when Blythe and six others were little, their families ensured that they would do great things with their magic, but setting them on the path to one day be the Seven Guardians:

Blythe – Ether Guardian. Black, bisexual, and willing to do anything to get her family back.

Cordelia – Mind Guardian. Chinese, great at hacking and coding, and has always worked extremely too hard at being perfect.

Daniel – Nature Guardian. Very sheltered, because his parents have kept him exclusively on their property for most of his life. Oh, and something may be following him.

Antonio – Animal Guardian. Puerto Rican, queer, and the sweetest cinnamon roll and bright light. Oh, and he has wings!

Storm – Time Guardian. Black, and has a secret mission of her own and she is always on rollerblades. And she was probably my favorite character besides Blythe.

Caspian – Death Guardian. Trans, asexual, and who has many secrets and much more story to be told.

Jay – Body Guardian. Black, bisexual, and very charming. Also, he comes from a very famous and prestigious family.

And…

Katia – Lead Imperial Advisor for the Sages, and she is supposed to locate and transport all seven kids to Frost Glade safely, even if they would rather go to Electric City.

And Blythe feels like if she can get this group together, she just might stand a chance at being able to rescue her family from this rebelling government. And we are whisked away on the adventure alongside her, where she will travel all over the country via the Tempore, which is a magical forest that folds time and space and can teleport you quickly around the world, but it is temporarily shut down and a huge risk to use.

I promise you that you will fall in love with ALL of these characters. And I truly think that it’s a testament to Ashia Monet’s talent and craft that they were able to evoke so much emotion and empathy from me over every single one of their characters.

This is obviously a very inclusive story, and it is ownvoices for the Black, queer, and nonbinary rep. There is a side character who you meet (and will also fall in love with) named Jamie, who is Black, nonbinary, and adopted. This book truly just has so much good in it, I wish I could put it into so many hands, and it was nothing short of a joy to read.

I really do think that the heart of this first installment is family, both blood and found, and the things one is willing to do to protect that family. There is no stronger force in this universe than unconditional love, and Blythe proves that from the first to the last page. Throughout the entire novel Blythe proves that her family is her world, but we also get to see this ragtag group somehow also find room inside her heart.

Yet, I also think this is a story about being brave, and how bravery can take so many shapes and forms. Sometimes the only way to feel like you’re brave is to try your best, sometimes it’s to feel safe, sometimes its to not let anyone in, and sometimes it’s to magically travel across the country to recuse your family. There is no right way to be brave and I really loved seeing all these teens truly be some of the bravest characters I’ve ever read.

“Once upon a time, a young girl lost her family and discovered a new one.”

Overall, I just loved this. I loved the story, being on a magical road-trip adventure was everything, I loved the characters, and was rooting so hard for Blythe and her hockey stick, I loved the twists and turns that occurred throughout, I loved the magic system and how it was complex but familiar at the same time, and I obviously loved how inclusionary this book was, too. Oh, and I’m biased, and I loved spending a little time in Vegas as well. But I just recommend this story with my whole heart and soul, and I really hope you all will give it a try, because it truly is such a magical debut and a bright shining star in 2019 releases.

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

Content and Trigger Warnings:
(This is all from the author at the start of the book and… what a blessing!)

Discussion of deceased parents, siblings, and potential parental and familial death Description of mild bloodshed in violent scenes
Mention of drugs and drug use, primarily marijuana
Gun use Supernatural horror in the form of monsters, primarily found in Chapters 6, 12, and 25
Car accident in Chapter 19
Discussion of anxiety disorders and panic disorders primarily found in Chapters 22, 23, and 25
Racial n-word slur, ending in-a, found in Chapter 21 (before you drag me, yes, I am Black)
Mild anxiety attack in Chapter 25.

✨ Thank you so much CW @ The Quiet Pond for putting together this blog tour. I was so very honored to be a part of it and to help celebrate this beautiful story.

✨ BONUS: Ashia is doing a really cool thread on Twitter, where they are breaking down the characters way better than I did, letting you know their astrological signs, and they are also showing off some breathtaking art, too! I really recommend checking it out!

✨ Buddy read with Fadwa ~ فدوى from Word Wonders! ❤