The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

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“If he looked in my eyes straight on, he would know how he’d pierced me with an arrow, how its shaft was still sticking out of my chest, twitching each time my heart contracted. And maybe he’d see how my mother had sliced up everything else.”

This is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read in my entire life. It’s powerful, moving, poignant, lyrical, important, and touched me beyond words. From the discussion about mental health and the stigmas we still have in 2018 (especially in Asian cultures), to the true portrayal of grief, to the heartbreaking truth about depression, to the realistic depiction of what it means to be not only biracial but to be white passing, to the discovery of your identity. The Astonishing Color of After is a book I will cherish for the rest of my life.

“I would’ve carved out my heart and brain and given them to her just so she could feel right again.”

But this is a very heavy book, so big trigger and content warnings for suicide, depression, loss of a loved one, depiction of blood, very intense suicidal thoughts, abandonment, racial slurs/remarks, and mention of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). But if you’re in the right state of mind, I recommend this book with my whole heart and soul. This will easily make my best of 2018 list.

The Astonishing Color of After is a story about a girl who has just realized that her mother has committed suicide. This book follows her suffering with the loss of her mother, who she is also seeing in the shape of a bird. This bird has convinced our main character, Leigh, to travel to Taiwan, because there is something there that her mother wants her to remember.

“My mother is a bird. This isn’t like some William Faulkner stream-of-consciousness metaphorical crap. My mother. Is literally. A bird.”

Mental Health
This is a book about mental health and how depression impacts everyone around the person who is living with it. In the acknowledgements, Emily X.R. Pan states that she was inspired to finish this book after someone close to her took their own life. And I’m not going to say that her experience, or my experience, are the only experiences, but the depiction of depression in this book sends a chill up my spine because it feels so real and accurate.

This book discusses how people always think they could have saved the person who ended their life. Or how pills and medications are the fix that depressed people need. Sometimes people believe in other, terrible, treatments that will cure depression, no matter what it costs that person. Depression is an illness, just like anything else. It can come once, it can come and go, and it can come and never leave. But depression is real, and it can be hard, really hard, and it’s not something that’s an “easy fix”, and it’s not something that we should keep stigmatizing and pretending that it’s not a real illness. And this book respectfully and beautiful depicts that. And there is absolutely no suicide shaming in this book.

“Long before doctors put a label on her condition and offered slips of paper bearing the multisyllabic names of pharmaceuticals. Long before my father started leaving on his work trips. Long before everything: She was already hurting.”

The start of this book was really heavy and hard to read for me. When Leigh discovers what her mother did my heart felt like it was being shredded. But seeing her mother live with her own grief shredded my soul. Depression, loss, and grief are highlighted themes through this entire book, and they are so real and so important and I have no words to express how much they meant to me that they were huge components of this YA story.

“In the beginning, that mother-shaped hole was made of blood. Dark and sticky, soaked to the roots of the carpet.”

Ultimately, this is a book about Leigh discovering her self in every sense of the word. From discovering her sexuality, to discovering her creativity, to trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life. To also living with a parent that is depressed, to sharing a life with a parent who is never home. To finally discovering her culture that has been somewhat hidden from her for her entire life. Also, this book is the biggest love letter to the healing power of art.

“Maybe that’s where all the other colors are hiding—in a dimension of the world we just can’t see, between our sky and the rest of the universe.”

Being Biracial
I feel like this is something I never talk about because I feel shame because of all the privileges I’ve received my entire life from being so very white passing, but apparently 2018 is the year I bring up my Filipino heritage in every review I write. I’m a lot more white passing than Leigh, but the things she deals with and feels, especially when she travels to Taiwan, is something so real and something I’ve never had depicted in a book before. From my light hair and eyes, to my barely basic understanding of Tagalog, this book was the book I’ve been searching for my entire life. I have no word combination for how seen I felt in the book. (Also the love interest is half Filipino, and was the cutest little cinnamon role who warmed my heart throughout the book!)

“I suck in a deep breath and quicken my steps to press closer to my grandmother. Her proximity feels like a shield. If only I didn’t stand out so obviously with my lighter eyes, with my lighter hair and its streak of green. If only I had been raised more Taiwanese, and could somehow prove to these people that I belong here.”

But seeing Leigh claim back her identity is something so beautiful that I don’t even have words for. This story is crafted and woven so exceptionally between different pasts and her present, and seeing Leigh come into her own is something I can’t possibly put into words.

“We try so hard to make these little time capsules. Memories strung up just so, like holiday lights, casting the perfect glow in the perfect tones. But that picking and choosing what to look at, what to put on display—that’s not the true nature of remembering.”

Overall, I loved this (if you couldn’t tell)! This, again, is a story that I will carry inside of my heart for the rest of my life. Emily X.R. Pan has crafted something that is so raw, but so magical. Plus, this is one of the most impressive debuts that I’ve ever read in my entire life. I recommend this with my entire heart and soul.

Oh, and real quick I want to mention that Leigh has a lesbian best friend who has the most supportive mom (and family) in the world and it was such a bright shining light for me! Also, the mom’s name is Mel and I’m going to totally believe her name is Melanie and it was a glimpse of my future if I ever have kids. Okay, now, go buy this book and come gush with me!

And lastly, here are some amazing resources that are actually in the book:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
In a crisis, call their free and 24/ 7 U.S. hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Contact their Crisis Text Line: text TALK to 741-741
National Hopeline Network: / 1-800-442-HOPE (4673)
American Association of Suicidology:
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
Suicide Prevention Resource Center:

Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors:
American Association of Suicidology survivors page: suicide-survivors/suicide-loss-survivors
Friends for Survival:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline survivors page: loss-survivors/
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education:

Mental Health America:
National Alliance on Mental Illness:
National Institute of Mental Health:

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Buddy read with Yusra, Caidyn, Alexis, and Life & Lit! ❤


Top Ten Tuesday | Best Character Names (AKA: What I might name my children if I ever become a parent!)

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!

Fun fact that you might not know about me: when my mom was a young girl she read Gone with the Wind and fell in love with the name Melanie. She says that she always knew that if she had a daughter she would name her Melanie. Hi, hello, she had me and followed through!

This week’s topic is Best Character Names, and I was honestly a little apprehensive about making this list, because if I ever choose to have children these will be my future children’s names! Well, I mean, not all of them, but four of these are for sure in the running if I ever become a parent!

But some of these names are just ones that I love with my whole heart, but I would never name my future kids them! But I get so very happy when I read these names as characters in books, regardless! Okay, I’m being long winded. You will easily be able to tell the names I loved from the names I only like! And without without further ado here they are!

King Arthur – Morgana
I’ve always loved the named Morgana! Also, this is the name of my favorite video game character of all time, so it just makes my heart so very happy when I read it in books!

The Virgin Suicides – Lux
This was my favorite book for the most years in my so far, so I couldn’t not mention a name from this one, because all of the sister’s names are amazing, in my opinion! Lux, Cecilia, Bonnie, Mary, Therese, all amazing, but Lux is my favorite!

The King Killer Chronicles – Auri
Maybe it’s because I love this character so much, and because I have so much fanart for her, but I love the name Auri!

Inkmistress – Garen
I love this name more than words. I audibly gasped when I read this name for a minor side character in Inkmistress. This one of for sure in the running for future children.

The Bird and the Sword – Larkin
If I miraculous birth a girl tomorrow, this would be the name I would give her. When I was a freshman in high school, I had biology with a girl named Larkin, and upon attendance call on that very first day, I fell completely head over heels for this name. I still have never met another person with the name personally, but it is without a doubt most likely going to be my imaginary daughter’s name. Love, love, love. Also, the girl in this book is named Lark, so… I’m stretching a little bit, but I couldn’t not put Larkin on this list.

The Cruel Prince – Cardan
You all, this name. Like, what a perfect fae prince name. So fae, so powerful, so perfect. And just saying the name Prince Cardan makes me feel all the ways. I just love it.

Throne of Glass – Rowan
I have always loved this name, which is funny because I absolutely hate this SJM character. But when I was quickly just thinking about names that I love, I knew I had to add Rowan/Rowen. This name is getting a little bit more popular, but it’s because it’s so beautiful and so beautifully gender fluid!

Throne of Glass – Manon
Yeah, somehow Sarah J Maas made it on this list twice. I’m sorry, you all. But honestly, Manon is not only one of my favorite characters of all time, but Manon is also one of my favorite literary names of all time!

Edgar Allan Poe – Lenora
Lenora is my grandmother’s name, so I carry this one very near to my heart. I fully believe that I will somehow incorporate this into a child’s name if I ever become a parent. I just love it, and I love my grandma so very much, so this one is extra special to me.

The Odyssey – Atlas
If I miraculous birth a boy tomorrow, this is the name I would name my son. This name is so powerful, so meaningful, and just sounds so very perfect to me. Also, my favorite musical artist in the entire world, Claudio Sanchez, named his child this, so it only furthered my love!

Okay, I hope you all enjoyed this super sappy post! And let me emphasize to you all, I am not pregnant, nor have I ever been pregnant! But I love names, and quotes, and all the words, and I collect them all the time. Also, I hate the idea that we have “boy names” and “girl names” so I’m sorry if I made anyone uncomfortable with picking Larkin as my favorite girl name and Atlas as my favorite boy name. Society’s gender roles are gross. But, hopefully you enjoyed seeing what I would name my hypothetical children/maybe, hopefully, one day children. Also, I just realized that three of the ten are also League of Legends names, so there’s that! I’m such a dork, I swear! Also, if you all want to pull a Rachel to my Monica with Larkin, Atlas, or Garen – I’ll come for you! Hahaha, just kidding! I truly couldn’t resist! Happy reading (and character and/or children creating), my loves!

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Nyxia Unleashed (The Nyxia Triad #2) by Scott Reintgen

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1.) Nyxia ★★★★★

“As the descent begins, I hold on to one truth: I am more than what they would make of me.”

This is such an amazing YA Sci-Fi series that is so beautifully inclusive with some very important themes and discussions. The writing is amazing, I pulled around thirty quotes for this review alone. The characters have completely stolen my heart and soul, and they are a tier above most in all of literature. This series is amazing, and this second installment was everything that I wanted and more.

Nyxia Unleashed follows a crew of kids from all over the world that have been tested extensively during their journey to another planet. A company named Babel gave contracts to kids from needy homes, whether that be love, money, or even health care. Babel picked kids that they believed they could mold and shape into whatever they wanted, but Nyxia Unleashed shows that Babel might have completely underestimated the power of teens. And this book picks right back up after the final events in Nyxia, where they have landed on a brand new planet, Magnia.

“They made us into weapons. It will be their downfall.”

This series also has the best main protagonist in YA, I swear it. Emmett is a black boy from Detroit, who joined this space program because it was the only way his mother could get the medical treatment she needed. He constantly is filing stuff away mentally with a system his grandma taught him, and he is never embarrassed or shamed for showing emotion. Music also plays a big role in Emmett’s life, and it’s displayed so very beautifully. Emmett is just an amazing main character, and one that I’ve been searching for

Morning is my new favorite character of all-time, I swear. She is so strong, so powerful, so amazing of a leader. She’s a Latinx girl from Cali who has completely stolen my heart. She (and her doors) blew me away. Like, the fight scenes with Morning are legit some of the best fight scenes I’ve ever read in YA. And seeing her be so hard, and so soft, and so everything in between, is something I don’t even have words for.

And the romance in this book? Lord, I can’t. So perfect, so pure, so everything. It makes me want to scream “OTP forever” at the top of my lungs, off the rooftops. And the moments that these two share, whether its fighting back to back, comforting each other over past pain, or just cuddling and being there for one another. I love it all, and I ship Emmett and Morning so hard, it’s unreal.

Magnia is a planet that has two moons and, depending on the years, the planet changes not only names (Magnia and Glacius) but natural disasters and weather. The kids that landed are supposed to be mining Nyxia, a new super resource and is a substance that can create anything, and Babel has created a treaty with the indigenous people on Magnia, the Imago. Basically, their planet is slowly dying from lack of females, so they promise to allow these kids to mine so that they can instill hope back to a planet that no longer has children. Well, at least that’s what Babel is saying, and Magnia is agreeing to.

“It doesn’t surprise me that Babel’s out here playing the role of colonizer, slapping labels on the originals and pretending they created it all in the first place. It’s pretty standard procedure for folks like them.”

This book heavily talks about colonization, and how disgusting people can be, while also taking everything from natives of the land they are about to steal. Babel even made up a name to call the Imago people, which the crew doesn’t even realize until they get to know the indigenous people. And these kids all see, first hand, what this new planet and its inhabitants are like, and it’s not so much different than any of them. And the crew also see how Babel has something much larger than anyone else expect in store.

This story also puts a heavy emphasis on social hierarchy and systemic oppression and what that means for the individuals that the world will deem as lesser. How some people are just born into the right last name, with the right money, with the right looks, and with all the privileges that these things give.

“Is this how people talked about me when I lived in Detroit? Am I like the beggars? Don’t give me too much of a handout or I’ll be encouraged, I think darkly.”

But Nyxia is just such a gift of a series to the literary world. That crew I kept talking about above? I already said that Emmett is black, and Morning is Latinx, but the rest of the crew? So much beautiful diversity. This crew has queer (gay and/or bi) side characters, side characters wearing hijabs, a pregnant teen crew member, Asian crew members, and so much of the characters talking about their experiences outside of The United States. So many of these characters are all dealing with grief, trauma, PTSD, and abandonment. This book is on another level, I’m telling you all.

Trigger and content warnings for murder, death, gore, blood, violence, depiction of PTSD, abandonment, kidnapping, torture, animal death, talk of past outing, talk of past homophobia, genocide, colonization, loss of a loved one, loss of a friend, and war themes.

My favorite aspect of this book was the constant spotlight on found family and unconditional love, trust, and support. These kids, from all different backgrounds, upbringings, ethnicities, religions, come together and create this bond that is so believable and so amazing to read. Like, this book just feels so real, that I’m wondering if there is an organization like Babel out there and if these kids came together and (hopefully) really saved a world!

“I sit there long after she falls asleep, thinking about the family we’ve forged, not through blood, but through steel and chaos. I never asked for any of this. At the beginning, I fought hard against it. But now that they’re mine, now that I’m theirs, I’d do anything to keep them from being taken.”

Overall, I loved this. The wait for the third book is going to be so hard, but this second installment was everything I wanted and more. I mean, Scott Reintgen still ripped out my heart, but in the best way possible. This is easily my favorite YA Sci-Fi out there, and I hope you all give this series a try, because it’s so worth it.

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Buddy read with Lilly, Cierra, Scrill, Solly, & Lori! ❤

You guys, I never win anything, but I actually won an ARC of this on a Twitter giveaway from Scott Reintgen himself!

Monstress, Volume 2: The Blood by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda

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Vol. 1: Awakening ★★★★★

“Halfwolf’s daughter has returned.”

In Volume Two: The Blood, We are thrown back into this amazing world that I love so much. We are reintroduced to a girl that is living with a monster inside of her. She is being hunted, but trying to piece together all the parts that make up her past, including what happened to her mother, who taught her at a young age to be strong in a world that will refuse to ever accept you.

Moriko and her sidekicks that she doesn’t want to love, Kippa and Ren, are on a completely new adventure, which involves a ship, a pirate crew, a mysterious island, and maybe some ghosts. The banter is perfection, the art is quite literally a gift to the world, and the story is a masterpiece. This is my favorite graphic novel series of all time.

And the message about never letting anyone control you, about rising to the top of a world that wants nothing more than to drag you down, is so powerful. This graphic novel is a fantasy inspired world that is ownvoices, and this graphic novel is filled with PoC characters. Also, Moriko only has one arm, but shows the world constantly how she should never be underestimated because of her disability. This is a super diverse series, and this story is filled with discussions about fear tactics and hate speech, and shows how easily hate speech can turn into hate actions.

Trigger and content warnings for a lot of blood, a lot of gore, and a whole lot of violence. Slavery, war themes, child abuse, animal cruelty, experimentations on unwilling living creatures, and one pretty dark birthing scene. This is a very dark graphic novel, please use caution.

But this series is so perfect, and I truly believe it is a tier above anything else out there right now. If you feel like you are in the right mindset, I can’t implore you enough to pick Awakening up and give it a try.

I’m now going to just break down each single issue super quickly! Minor spoilers ahead!

We are reintroduced to Moriko, and we get to revisit the monster that is trying to very hard to escape her. Kippa is the best character in all existence. Ren is second best. And I love all the cat people, so much, even when they are bad sometimes. Moriko finds a bone key and procures a ship and a crew to take her to an island that might have the answers about her mother.

Moriko talks about how it has always hurt her that she never received any Goddess-marks to easily show that she is like the other Arcanic children, even though she carries so much power within herself. And then we see a new monster that lurks in the sea below, right before the ship is attacked.

We get to see some flashbacks of Moriko’s mother teaching her, but we see how hard her mother was on her. Honestly? It just made me want to protect her even more. Also, Kippa is smart, perfect, and oh so loyal. I love her more than words.

This issue had some of the most beautiful art I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I could frame something on every single page. Perfection. But Moriko, Kippa, and Ren are on a smaller boat, heading to the island together. And the bone key comes into play, in a pretty amazing way. But once they get to the island, they quickly realize they are not alone.

I loved this issue, because we get to know Moriko’s monster a little bit better through more flashbacks. And I’m loving all these breadcrumbs so much. And Moriko also gets more knowledge about her mother, but for a price.

Oh boy, this concluding issue left me needing the next volume this very instant! Also, I know I shouldn’t, but I love the ferryman. Moriko is able to put on the part of the mask she has in her possession, but someone else senses it immediately; her father.

Again, this graphic novel is everything to me. Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda are a gift to the world, and I will read this series for as long as they create it. If you’re looking for an adult, high fantasy, dark, ownvoices, Asian inspired graphic novel series, please pick this up. From the art, to the characters, to the mysteries, to the messages, this is a masterpiece in every single way.

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Readalong for the BooktubeSFF Awards which is being hosted by:
🌑 Samantha from Sam’s Nonsense
🌒 Frankie from Frankie Reads
🌓 Kaitlin from Kitty G
🌔 Rachel from Kalanadi
🌕 Thomas from SFF180
🌖 Connor from Connor O’Brien
🌗 Sam from Thoughts on Tomes
🌘 Chelsea from TheReadingOutlaw
🌑 Elena from Elena Reads Books

The Sims Book Tag

I was tagged by the amazing Sophie @ Blame Chocolate! This tag was originally created by Hailey from Hailey in Bookland! And you all probably know that I’ve enjoyed playing The Sims my entire life, off and on, so I couldn’t resist doing this tag! Plus, it’s adorable!

The Original Sims: The Best Author Debut

The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy #1) by Katherine Arden

I still can’t believe this book was a debut. Most impressive debut I’ve ever read, and probably will ever read.

The Grim Reaper: The Saddest Character Death

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter #7) by J.K. Rowling

This will forever and always be my answer. FOREVER AND ALWAYS!

“Here lies Dobby, a free elf.”

Sims Getting Stuck: A Character that Got in the Way

Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy #1) by Richelle Mead

You all are about to see how petty I am. But my young and (even more) angsty-self LOVED Adrian. But freakin’ Dmitri kept coming in and ruining everything! It didn’t matter if he was good, or evil, or distant; he was a thorn in my side and I’m still bitter.

Simlish: A Book with Amazing Writing

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) by Laini Taylor

Can I go a tag without mentioning this book? No. And I probably will never be able to. In this book lies the best writing I have ever experienced. Such a blessing.

“Sarai was seventeen years old, a goddess and a girl. Half her blood was human, but it counted for nothing. She was blue. She was godspawn. She was anathema. She was young. She was lovely. She was afraid.”

Expansion Packs: A Series Where the Books just Keep Getting Better

Traitor’s Blade (Greatcoats #1) by Sebastien de Castell

Seriously, this tag has me listing all of my favorites! The Greatcoats honestly just get better and better, but the first book is a masterpiece, too, so it’s really saying something.

Cheats: A Book that’s Completely Unrealistic

A Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #1) by Amanda Bouchet

You all know I hate bringing up this book. But it’s the worst. And no matter what, I tap out at semen that has the ability to heal. Not today, demons. Goodbye.

Needs Fulfillment: A Character who makes all the wrong decisions

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood #1) by Melissa Albert

You all, I’m hard-pressed to think of a main character that made my rage more than the protagonist in this book. From her actions, to the things that came out of her mouth, this character didn’t do anything right.

Error Code 12: A Series that Starts Off Great but Goes Downhill from There
Falling Kingdoms (Falling Kingdoms #1) by Morgan Rhodes

Gosh, I’m hesitant to say this even “starts off great” but I truly think books three and four are amazing. But the rest? Either mediocre and just downright bad. One of the worst series conclusions ever, too.

Sims Vortex: A Book or Series that completely Engrossed You
The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black

My brand, my love, my legacy. Fae, enemies to lovers, lyrical writing, strong female leads, everything I want in a book and series. Completely and wholeheartedly addicted.

I Tag:

But if you’d also like to do this, consider yourself tagged!

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Filthy Gods (American Gods, #0.5) by R. Scarlett

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ARC provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

“The only thing I was afraid of was my own mortality in front of him. Gods fell in love with mortals and demolished them piece-by-piece.”

Filthy Gods has the atmosphere and feeling of The Secret History, but the romance and the sexiness of nothing else I’ve read before. Best new adult romance I’ve read all year. And my heart breaks that it’s only a novella, because I need so much more.

This is a story about a girl named Juliette, who has had to work so very hard at everything she has achieved in life. But despite not having anyone in her life besides herself, she has managed to attend Yale. And not only just attend Yale, but is one of the best pre-law students in all of her classes. Yet, there is one boy named Nathaniel, who she is rivals with, and who was born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Juliette and Nathaniel are constantly trying to one up each other, but when Juliette starts working at a country club that Nathaniel’s mother owns, the power dynamic feels very imbalanced. Especially when neither of them can stop thinking about each other, and especially because they are both going to be at the country club all summer.

“For three years, I’ve competed against Nathaniel Radcliffe. Always trying to be better, smarter, faster—anything more than him. And in a matter of seconds, all that had crumpled to soot around my sore knees.”

Together they decide that the only way that either of them is going to be able to function this summer is for them to finally get whatever it is out of their systems. And the romance in this is off the scale. Like, I truly believe these two fictional characters are soulmates! Between their banter, to them challenging each other, to their in-depth discussions about everything, to their phenomenal sex scenes, these two were a joy to read about. And you all know that enemies/rivals to lovers, will always be my favorite trope of all time.

“I wanted to pretend that my heart beating inside of me was from my hatred of him and him alone, but I knew as he kissed me, my heart had already begun to betray my mind.”

And let me clearly state that I completely understand that there is a huge power imbalance between these two main characters, but R. Scarlett does a wonderful job making sure and reassuring that everything is consensual and wanted. But there are a few trigger and content warnings for attempted rape, sexual assault, talk of death of a parent, death of a friend, physical abuse, abandonment, and talk of past child abuse. But all of these things are always challenged, and none are glorified or anything like that.

But this is a starting pre-novella to what will eventually be a three book series starring each of the four elite, rich, sexy, god-like men of Yale:
Nathaniel – Star of this novella. Super intelligent, super rich, and super powerful.
Arsen – Russian, with family that has all the connections.
James – Addicted to adrenaline and seems like he is going to be the ultimate “bad boy” type character.
Gabe – The most powerful and beloved of the four. Will probably be president of the United States one day.

“There was something untouchable, something holy and unholy about the boys. Sacred and sinful all at once. Bastards of Grace. Fame, wealth and power poured out of them. They were the things of legends and myths.”

Overall, I loved this completely and wholeheartedly. This was sexy, and romantic. This was so beautifully written and expertly crafted. This was nothing short of a treat to read. I cannot wait to see what R. Scarlett does next with this world. But if you guys are looking for the perfect little romance story, I can’t recommend this enough! Do yourselves a favor and don’t miss out on this. And Rich Boys Don’t Have Hearts is now one of my most anticipated releases, and I can’t wait to read Gabe’s story.

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

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh & Elsie Chapman

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ARC provided by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.

This is the anthology I’ve been waiting my entire life for. As a Filipina woman, I have no words to express how happy my heart is to just read a collection of short stories that are all ownvoices. And at the end of each short story is an author note on why they wrote the story that they did. And, I think I cried reading at least 75% of the author’s notes. This anthology is so beautiful, so powerful, and it means more to me than I have word combinations to express.

“We fell in love with all those myths about powerful gods being vulnerable, about humans becoming heroes. Such stories taught us about mythology, about the beauty of folktales and legends, and about how stories of gods and goddesses are also stories about the human heart. But we never found similar compilations that were distinctly Asian.”

Friends, please preorder this and fall in love, too! If you’d like to get me a birthday gift this year, please just preorder this, read, and review this collection. Honestly, it’s the only thing I want in 2018. I’ll beg, I’ll plead, I’ll scream from the rooftops: please preorder this anthology and show the world that Asian stories can not only sell, but can also change lives. I will cherish this book forever and ever. (While also apparently rereading Roshani’s from my ARC copy over the phone to my grandmother 100 times!)

This collection honestly has so many amazing additions, but my personal favorites were Forbidden Fruit by Roshani Chokshi, Olivia’s Table by Alyssa Wong, The Crimson Cloak by Cindy Pon, and Eyes like Candlelight by Julie Kagawa. But my all-time favorite of the collection was The Land of the Morning Calm by E. C. Myers.

But I’m going to break down each short story with my thoughts, opinions, and individual star rating!

Forbidden Fruit by Roshani Chokshi – ★★★★★

“It was an ill-fated thing to claim that a heart is safe. Hearts are rebellious. The moment they feel trapped, they will strain against their bindings.”

I am in tears writing this. Best opening story of any anthology ever. This is a version of the Philippine mythos of Maria Makiling that my grandma has been telling me stories of since I was a little girl. And Roshani’s take on it was beyond words beautiful. This opening story was enough for me to preorder three copies of this book. And I know I’m being completely biased, but this was nothing short of magnificent, and I’ll cherish it forever and ever. Roshani, thank you, with every bone in my body, thank you.

Olivia’s Table by Alyssa Wong – ★★★★★

“Can’t they see the ghosts all the time?” she asked. “Not like you and I can. The Festival is when ghosts are most themselves instead of what the living want them to be. Not everyone will like what they see tonight.”

Everyone knows I’m a huge fangirl of Alyssa Wong, but the reason for that is because she truly writes the best short fiction out there right now. There are so many amazing authors out there, but talent like Alyssa’s, where it just shows that she was meant to weave words together and craft these life changing stories, is so rare, but so awe-inspiring. She is such a blessing to the literary world, and I’m forever thankful. Every anthology collection I’ve read that includes a story from her ends up being ten times better for the inclusion. And her story always ends up completely stealing the show, my soul, and my heart, while also becoming my favorite. And Olivia’s Table was no different. This is a perfect story about a girl dealing with grief and depression but honoring her family by cooking at the Hungry Ghost Festival. And this was such an honor to read, and I know I’ll carry this tale with me forever. TW/CW: loss of a loved one, terminal illness, grief, and depression.

Steel Skin by Lori M. Lee – ★★★★

“The brain is just a highly complex circuit of electrical impulses, so it stands to reason that it can be artificially manufactured. Scientists have been trying to understand this process for decades. What. Makes. Emotion?”

This is a sci-fi tale about a girl and her strained relationship with her father, who hasn’t been the same since her mother died (TW/CW: loss of a loved one, grief, and abandonment). But she and her friend soon start to unravel a mystery concerning the androids that were recalled long ago for being too intelligent. And this was such a beautiful story, with such an amazing ending. And the end note about this reimagining of The Woman and the Tiger, a Hmong folktale, completely made me fall even harder in love.

Still Star-Crossed by Sona Charaipotra – ★★★

“You don’t know how to choose until you’re right there, on the precipice, giving away your everything for something that may be real or may be a shadow, a ghost you’re chasing.”

This one wasn’t my favorite in the collection, just because it stars a young girl at a club with her friend when a strange young man appears and keeps following them. I mean, all the red flags, right? And even though his intentions always seemed good, it still made me uncomfortable to read. I did love the author’s note for this one, I just sadly didn’t love this vision. But oh my gosh, the atmosphere and the food descriptions? Perfection. Like, don’t read this if you’re hungry, because my stomach is growling just thinking about the food and drinks from this short story.

The Counting of Vermillion Beads by Aliette De Bodard – ★★★★★

“We can’t go home, but that doesn’t mean we have to be caged.”

I loved this tale about two sisters and that unconditional bond. This story felt so full, so atmospheric, so perfect. This story was inspired by Tấm and Cám, but the version that Aliette De Bodard created is so heartwarming and so inspiring. This is an empowering little tale, that truly emphasizes that we can be anything we want in this world, with whoever we are in this world, regardless of what others want to shape and mold us to be.

The Land of the Morning Calm by E. C. Myers – ★★★★★

“I finally know how it ends.”

I cried through 80% of this story. Easily, this was one of my new favorite short stories of all time. I will never forget this story for as long as I live. And I am immediately buying everything E. C. Myers has created. This is a story about a gwisin (ghost), and a girl that is still dealing with the death of her mother, five years later. It doesn’t help that she’s still living with her father and her mother’s father (her grandfather), who reminds her of her mother’s presence constantly. But it is undeniable when the MMO that was her mother’s life, and the reason her parents met, is being shut down forever, but has drawn Sunny into playing again. And Sunny has just found out about a new private server that will preserve the game, and maybe the memory of her mother. I loved this more than words. MMORPGs have meant so much to me during my life. I have played them since high school, and I have some of my very best friends and loved ones to this day because of them. And this short story is a love letter to video games and the impact they can make on your life. And video games are such a huge part of Korean culture, and the significance and importance shined through this story so very brightly. This story just had such a profound meaning to me, because it made me realize that one day I’m (hopefully) going to be a mom that is a gamer, and a con lover, and a writer, and so many of the things that Sunny viewed her mom as. Like, I promise, I was bawling through almost this entire story. This was beyond words beautiful. I have no word combination to string together to let you all know how perfect this was and how much this story meant to me. TW/CW: death, loss of a parent. And RIP to my favorite NPC of all time, Ephoenix (Ezra Chatterton).

The Smile by Aisha Saeed – ★★★★★
South Asian

“Belonging meant he could place me wherever he liked, whether in his bed or in this dank tower. Belonging is not love. It never was.”

This was so beautiful, I couldn’t help but fall in love. I need a full-length of this story, I need to know what happens next, I need so much more. But I guess that’s the beauty of this tale; anything could happen next. This is an extremely feminist short story about a girl who serves a prince who is in love with her. But this story is about love, and how it should only be given freely and to those deserving. Seriously, this is such a treat of a story. I think this will be one that everyone who picks up this anthology will love.

Girls Who Twirl and Other Dangers by Preeti Chhibber – ★★★★

“There are three reasons I know fall is awesome: the most anticipated Bollywood movies are always on a fall release schedule, my mom starts practicing her delicious party dishes, and it means it’s time for Navrātri!”

I loved this adorable story that switched between Hinduism mythos, and to current time to a girl celebrating Navaratri at a party with her friends, while they also plot revenge on a boy that’s being rather rude. Navaratri is celebrated in honor of good defeating evil, and the battle of Durga and Mahishasura, a buffalo demon. And Preeti Chhibber does such a wonderful job transitioning and showcasing these two stories together. Also, I just loved learning about this Hindu holiday that’s so empowering to women. This was expertly crafted and such a joy to read.

Nothing into All by Renée Ahdieh – ★★★★

“Many years ago, a girl and a boy lived with their parents in a bark-shingled home near a flowing river’s edge.”

Oh, this was such a fun and whimsical read! This was a super unique spin on The Goblin Treasure, which is actually a story I grew up hearing, too. But Renée Ahdieh did such a wonderful job making me feel every single thing for this set of siblings. And there is such a wonderful message about how we all carry goodness and badness inside of ourselves, but how we choose our actions based on which is what is truly important.

Spear Carrier by Rahul Kanakia – ★★
South Asian

“When I’d agreed to his offer, it was because I had thought I’d be a hero.”

This is a long short story about what it truly means to be a hero, and if being a hero only means accomplishing what you set out to do or winning the battle you set out to fight. There are a ton of lighthearted pop culture references in this, but a ton of hard-hitting questions of war and what is worth losing one’s life for. I just thought that sometimes the writing was a little too harsh and a little too dry for me.

Code of Honor by Melissa de la Cruz – ★★

“I almost murdered a girl yesterday…”

Friends, I’m heartbroken. I was supposed to love this one! I just read the Fresh Ink anthology, and Melissa de la Cruz’s story was easily my favorite out of the entire collection! But this? This just didn’t work for me at all. It’s about a vampire that is living in hiding, but has lost her journal that has a spell attached to it, so no human can read it. But it is still causing her a lot of trouble. Also, TW/CW for sort of a graphic animal comment, since she feeds from them. One line in this kind of made me shudder upon reading, so use caution. But I think this might be a set-up or something for her series Blue Bloods, but it just really felt strange being a part of this anthology, and I really didn’t enjoy it as much as it pains me to say.

Bullet, Butterfly by Elsie Chapman – ★★★★★

“Don’t forget we’re only ever soldiers here in Shangyu, and soldiers never get to be the ones who wake up from a spell, or who even get to break a spell. We’re just the dragons guarding the gate, ordered to keep breathing the fire of those who cast the spell in the first place.”

I loved this so much. I loved this more than words. This is a reimagining of the Chinese legend Butterfly Lovers, and it was so beautiful and so impactful. The theme of loyalty to one’s family, but also to one’s heart and happiness is constant throughout this tale. And just all of the ways that war impacts every single person, whether they are forced to create, forced to fight, or forced to any duty against their true heart’s desires. This story was wonderful and made me such an emotional mess. For sure a highlight in this already amazing anthology.

Daughter of the Sun by Shveta Thakrar – ★★★★
South Asian

“She sang for her parents, for the hue-switching heavens, for herself. She read fairy tales, epics, and legends and imagined performing them on a stage draped in velvet. But it wasn’t enough. She longed for a friend.”

This was a beautiful story inspired by two of the stories in the longest epic poem in history, The Mahābhārata. One about Princess Savitri and Prince Satyavan, and one about Ganga and Shantanu. This was a moving story about destiny and sacrifice and how important it is to always follow your heart, regardless of the outcomes and/or circumstances. And I was high-key living for the feminist undertones that were expertly woven throughout this.

The Crimson Cloak by Cindy Pon – ★★★★★

“…whatever I might make for myself in this life: hearth, home, or family—they would mean nothing without you.”

Please, excuse me while I go buy more from Cindy Pon because this story was one of the greatest blessings of 2018. And this is her version of the Chinese folklore tale of Cowherd, and the magical girl who saw him first. I actually had never heard of this tale before, so I spent some time afterwards reading everything I could, and I am even more in love. This is for sure one of the best stories in this anthology, and Cindy Pon’s giving a voice to this magical, fairy, weaver girl is something so beautiful I don’t even have words for it. One of the most romantic short stories I’ve ever read too. All the feels, all the happiness, all the tears.

Eyes like Candlelight by Julie Kagawa – ★★★★★

“She could charm bears with that smile, Takeo thought. If he were a bear, he would lie down with his head in her lap and not move until the hunters came for him.”

I loved this with every fiber of my being. I loved this writing so much that I think I’m actually going to pick up everything I’ve been neglecting on reading from Julie Kagawa, too. Like, this was the perfect closing story. And it surrounded one of my favorite mythical creatures of all time: Kitsunes! Again, the writing was so perfect, I was instantly teleported into this small village. The main character, Takeo, was the sweetest little cinnamon roll. And this short story was honestly perfect in every way. And the ending of this was absolutely haunting. I would buy and read anything else about this heartbroken girl, and the small boy that missed so much because of evil men.

Out of a possible 75 stars (5 stars possible for each of the 15 stories) this collection accumulated 63 stars (84%). But I am giving this five stars regardless, because I loved it so much. The stories in this collection meant more to me than I have words for. And I truly hope you all pick this up upon release.

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

Buddy read with Destiny! ❤