ARC Review: Black Water Sister

Title: Black Water Sister
Author: Zen Cho
ebook – ARC
Page Count: 
Publisher: Ace Books
Synopsis: GoodReads, StoryGraph
Notable Notables: 
Malaysian lesbian main character, Malaysian setting and mythology, Chinese culture
Recommended Readers: 
Fans of Yangsze Choo and anyone looking for a modern, magical Southeast Asian read
CAWPILE Rating: 9.29
Rating: ★★★★★

Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher, for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

My Review

Contemporary fiction is not a genre I usually pick up because most of it simply doesn’t interest me. Contemporary fantasy, however, is an entirely different matter, and Zen Cho’s Black Water Sister struck gold with me from the very first chapter.

If you’ve read and loved either Yangsze Choo’s The Ghost Bride or The Night Tiger, then the setting, tone, and mythology of Black Water Sister may come across as familiar to you, to say nothing of someone who already has a Malaysian background. I only mention Yangsze Choo because 1) I love her works and 2) she started this love for Malaysian contemporary fantasy that I possess now, and I am beyond delighted that Zen Cho has contributed to that love. I cannot wait to check out Cho’s other books now.

Black Water Sister opens with jobless Harvard graduate Jessamyn Teoh moving back with her family to Malaysia after her father loses his job in America. Between hiding her lesbian relationship from her traditional parents, attempting to re-assimilate to a country and culture she hasn’t been a part of in decades, and adjust to the sudden swarm of relatives, Jess is understandably stressed. Hearing voices should come as no surprise—except the voice she hears is the ghost of her estranged, opinionated grandmother, Ah Ma, who was a spirit medium to a god called the Black Water Sister. Now, Ah Ma wants Jess to help her exact vengeance on a gang boss and businessman who has offended the god, or she won’t be able to pass on to the afterlife. However, the more Jess becomes entrenched in the supernatural, the more her own life and destiny are thrown into jeopardy.

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Blog Tour | ARC Review: Lobizona by Romina Garber

Title: Lobizona
Author: Romina Garber
Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary/Fantasy
Version: ebook – ARC
Page Count: 400
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Add To-Read on: GoodReads, StoryGraph
Notable Notables: Latinx cast of characters, Argentine culture and folklore, the immigrant experience, feminist commentary
Recommended Readers: Those who’ve been waiting to see real Spanish on the page and fans of werewolves and witches
Rating: ★★★★☆

Thank you to NetGalley for providing this ARC and to Wednesday Books for asking me to participate in the Blog Tour in exchange for an honest review.


Some people ARE illegal.

Lobizonas do NOT exist.

Both of these statements are false.

Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past—a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.

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TTT: Books I Meant to Read in 2019 That I WILL Read in 2020

Back at the start of the year, I created a 2019 Goals shelf on Goodreads. Within that shelf, I threw 69 (heh) books that I intended to read by the end of the year. And then I kept adding books. And adding them. As of this writing, 97 books are in that shelf, many of them I did actually read, yet many more were shoved aside for the shiny and new. Somehow, I was convinced I would still get to them.

You are a fool, Harry Potter, and you will lose… everything.

It’s turn-over-a-new-leaf time. I want to get back to those older books, so for Top Ten Tuesday, here are my top books I meant to read in 2019 that I will make a priority in 2020.

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Book Review: Middlegame

 Seanan McGuire
Genre: Science Fiction/Contemporary
Version: Hardcover
Page Count: 528
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Unconventional narrative, messy characters, well-written villains
Recommended Readers: Hey, kids, wanna have your minds blown?
Rating: ★★★★★

Middlegame marks the first book from Seanan McGuire that I have ever read, and I fear that I have made a mistake. I fear that Seanan has ruined me for other books, including her own because honestly? Where am I supposed to go from here? There’s nowhere more up to go! This is it. I have reached a pinnacle of storytelling and composition I had no idea I was going to receive or was even looking for to begin with. It’s a masterpiece, a tour de force; it’s everything all the other books want to be like when their authors spend decades honing their craft and feel like attempting the impossible.

Our story follows separated twins Roger and Dodger, and yes, those names are deliberately bad, and yes, they have been deliberately separated, unaware of the other’s existence. This is a regular Parent Trap scenario–if your parents are two evil alchemists, a lab was your womb, and you were created, not to be people, but to embody two parts of an all-powerful, alchemical doctrine that, when united, can give the wielder enough power to control the fabric of the universe—to become a god, in other words.

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Book Review: Gun Moll

gun moll

Title: Gun Moll
 Bethany-Kris and Erin Ashley Tanner
Genre: Romance/Contemporary
Version: Paperback
Page Count: 358
Publisher: Self-Published
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Can’t think of a single one other than “bad sex”
Recommended Readers: No one, sadly
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

I don’t know what about this book I’m most insulted by: the fact that it honestly believes it’s a mafia book or that it dares to call itself a romance. I had high hopes for it–I love Italian mafia-related content, and gangster romances are honestly so hard to come by because none of them I’ve read are any good.

And now Gun Moll can be added to that sad little pile of disappointments.

Here’s the quick run-down: Melina’s an escort who gets entangled with the mob. Her life is put in danger basically because Mac, a little mobster soldier, can’t mind his own business. Melina looks suspiciously like an undercover cop as a result, so she and Mac have to pretend to be in a relationship until the heat’s taken off of them. Predictable sex happens, someone tries to kill them, sex happens again (and again and again), and eventually, resolution arrives along with the set-up for the next book, which, no thanks. If the plot sounds vague to you, that’s because there barely is one!

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Most Anticipated Book Releases – June 2018

The first of June is here, and you know what that means: a new month for book releases!

What does the first month of summer have in store for us? Plenty, but these are the books I’m most interested in, and I hope you are, too!

AThousandBeginningsAndEndingsI don’t normally gravitate to anthologies, but I shrieked with delight when I saw this one. Compiled by We Need Diverse Books, A Thousand Beginnings and Endings is a collection of mythology, fairy tale, and folklore stories by East and South Asian authors such as Roshani Chokshi, Cindy Pon, Julie Kagawa, and E. C. Myers. (Can I get an #OwnVoices, ya’ll?)

Being a Westerner myself, I recognize that Western storytelling has its own structure that gets tiring and predictable; Eastern storytelling structure is so different and refreshing by comparison. Can’t wait to read about all these trickster immortals, starcrossed lovers, and battles of wits.

Release date: June 26th

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Book Review: If We Were Villains

If We Were Villains9781250154958
If We Were Villains
 M. L. Rio
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Version: Hardcover
Page Count: 368
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: LGBTQ+ Characters
Recommended Readers: Fans of Shakespeare and murder mysteries
Rating: ★★★★★

One thing I’m sure Colborne will never understand is that I need language to live, like food—lexemes and morphemes and morsels of meaning nourish me with the knowledge that, yes, there is a word for this. Someone else has felt this before.

This was an unexpectedly amazing find! All my love and thanks to my friend Colby for making me aware of such a fantastic book.

M. L. Rio delivers a debut novel that is both thoughtful and mesmerizing, blending the works of Shakespeare with the lives of seven student actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory. If We Were Villains delves into the beauty and manic competition of Shakespearean theatre and the sharp edges that come with becoming too much like the roles you play. At what point does art separate itself from life and vice versa?

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