ARC Review: Iron Widow

Title: Iron Widow
Author: 
Xiran Jay Zhao
Genre: 
Young Adult/Sci-Fi
Version: ebook – ARC
Page Count: 
400
Publisher: 
Penguin Teen
Synopsis: GoodReads | StoryGraph
Notable Notables: 
Based in Chinese culture with a Chinese-coded cast; inspired by China’s only female emperor; polyamorous relationship
Recommended Readers: 
Fans of mecha anime and revenge stories
CAWPILE Rating: 7.86
Rating: ★★★★☆

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

My Review

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao is a stand-out, explosive debut that is sure to capture the imaginations and whet the appetites of readers searching for female revenge stories. With sci-fi being a rarer sight in the YA genre, Iron Widow takes a bold approach with its mecha anime-inspired roots along with being steeped in Chinese history.

In Huxia, boys dream of becoming ace pilots of Chrysalises, which are giant, transforming robots powered by syncing up with female concubine-pilots. It doesn’t matter that the girls die of mental strain, only that the mecha aliens beyond the Great Wall are stopped. Wu Zetian volunteers as a concubine-pilot to assassinate the male pilot who killed her older sister, only to emerge from the cockpit unscathed and with her co-pilot dead after overcoming him through their psychic link. Instead of being his One True Match and Iron Princess, Zetian is an Iron Widow, a much-feared and often silenced female pilot who can sacrifice boys instead. To subdue her, she is paired with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial pilot in Huxia, but she is not interested in being cowed. Instead, she plots to use Shimin and their newfound notoriety to survive attempt after attempt against her life until she can discover why the pilot system works as it does and stop more girls from being sacrificed for male dominance.

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ARC Review: The Gilded Ones

Title: The Gilded Ones
Author: Namina Forna
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 432
Publisher: Delacorte
Add To-Read on: GoodReadsStoryGraph
Notable Notables: Female-led, POC cast; original, if underdeveloped, world-building
Recommended Readers: Older teens, but also no one unless you’re really in the mood for some grimdark
CAWPILE Rating: 2.29
Star Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

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

My Review

Well, what happened here? I’m flabbergasted.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna was easily one of my most anticipated books since it was supposed to be released in 2020, its publication date pushed back due to the pandemic. Finally reading it, however, has been a bizarre, disturbing, and deeply unenjoyable experience.

Synopsis time. Sixteen-year-old Deka waits anxiously for the Ritual of Purity—for her blood to run red, so she can be accepted as a pure woman by her village at last. In the country of Otera, women must wear masks and defer to the men in their lives at all times, and all Deka wants is to be accepted enough to be considered marriageable. When her blood turns out to run gold, she is deemed impure, a demon, and must face the Death Mandate all her kind go through. Except she doesn’t die. Before the male elders can find her true death, a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. These girls—alaki—are near-immortals with strength and speed men don’t possess, and they are the key to stopping the deathshrieks that plague the empire.

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ARC Review: The Guinevere Deception

the guinevere deceptionTitle: The Guinevere Deception
Author:
Kiersten White
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 352
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: LGBTQA+ characters
Recommended Readers: Yo, anyone want a feminist reimagining of Arthurian legends?
Rating: ★★★★☆

Thank you, Net Galley and the publisher, for offering this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Kiersten White’s latest trilogy is a feminist study into the character Guinevere, a figure in Arthurian legends who is often regulated to the sidelines as a prize, an adulterer, a villain, and an opportunistic traitor—but never the architect of her own story. With The Guinevere Deception, Guinevere has found her voice at last, but in true White fashion, her story is full of interesting twists and unexpected choices.

For instance, when we meet Guinevere, she is journeying from a convent to Camelot in order to wed her future husband, King Arthur—and she isn’t truly Guinevere. The real Guinevere died tragically, and unbeknownst to everyone, a changeling raised by Merlin has taken her place. Casting all knowledge of her past aside, including her true name, “Guinevere” intends to be a source of magical protection for Arthur against his enemies, even though Camelot has exiled all magic and ousted Merlin. But exiling magic doesn’t stop the forests and lakes from wanting to reclaim the land, and the ideal of Camelot has as many enemies in man and beast as Arthur does. Perhaps the greatest threat might be Guinevere herself.

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Book Review: The Princess Saves Herself in This One

the princess saves herself in this oneTitle: The Princess Saves Herself in This One
Author:
 Amanda Lovelace
Genre: Poetry
Version: Paperback
Page Count: 199
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Free verse poetry, Feminism
Recommended Readers: Women especially, but men should read this, too, honestly
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I’ve done it; I’ve finally read The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace. You might remember that I actually started my journey with Lovelace’s poetry via an ARC of The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This Onecontinuing with The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One. Yeah, I kinda did this whole thing backwards, but I’m happy to at last experience where Lovelace’s journey of finding her voice through poetry started, even though it wasn’t as strong as the others.

But that’s a good thing in this case. Lovelace grows in her poetry technique, depth, presentation, and subject matter as the Women Are Some Kind of Magic trilogy goes on. In fact, if I hadn’t fallen so in love with The Witch Doesn’t Burn in this One and been so similarly impressed with The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One, then I might have rated this collection higher. While I kept in mind that this was the first round and that I read these out of impact order, I still feel what I feel about Lovelace’s poetry here, and reason that—no matter what the timing may be—poetry will always be personal.

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ARC Review: Pet

petTitle: Pet
Author:
 Akwaeke Emezi
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 208
Publisher: Make Me a World
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: POC cast, LGBTQA+ characters
Recommended Readers: Everyone!
Rating: ★★★★★

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

From its distinctive prose to its powerful message, Pet by Akwaeke Emezi is a compelling novel that asks us to be watchful of monsters, especially those that look, act, and smile just like us.

Our story follows Jam, who was born in a world without monsters. During her parents’ youth, the world finally got tired of the political corruption and social degradation, and said enough. Now, the city of Lucille teaches its children that there are no more monsters, that angels—ordinary people who rose to the challenge of saving the world—got rid of the monsters for good, through rehabilitation or otherwise. However, Jam’s understanding of this world is shaken when Pet, a creature with horns, feathers, and claws, emerges from one of her mother’s paintings, claiming it has come to hunt a monster. Jam has to work with Pet to uncover the monster, but she is torn with indecision when she learns it is located in her best friend Redemption’s house—and that none of the adults in her world want to believe that monsters still exist right in front of them.

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Book Review: The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One

the mermaid's voice returns in this one
Title:
 
The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One
Author:
 Amanda Lovelace
Genre: Poetry
Version: ARC – eBook
Page Count: 210
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Free verse poetry, Feminism
Recommended Readers: Women especially, but men should read this, too, honestly
Rating: ★★★★☆

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

It’s been a hot minute since I read The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This Onethe second poetry collection in Amanda Lovelace’s Women Are Some Kind of Magic series. While I’ve still yet to read the first book, The Princess Saves Herself in This One, and therefore don’t have the full picture of this journey of growth, The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One still delivers on Lovelace’s trademark poetic voice in all its vulnerabilities and harsh truths.

I’ll go ahead and say now that The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One ranked higher for me simply because I related to its anger, ferocity, and zeal more than I did this collection’s emphasis on trauma and healing. I also enjoyed the former’s greater usage of imagery more, since here, the imagery surrounding mermaids and their returning voice held more of a subtle place than downright literal usage. (I actually felt there was more imagery used with stars than anything else.) But that’s because this collection’s imagery was more figurative, and it encompassed the entire journey, namely that of a woman (or any reader) reclaiming their voice and at last speaking openly about the traumas of their past and how tough the healing journey is.

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Book Review: A Dangerous Collaboration

a dangerous collaboration

Title: A Dangerous Collaboration
Author:
 Deanna Raybourn
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Version: ARC – eBook
Page Count: 336
Publisher: Berkley
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Victorian setting, Sex-positive protagonist
Recommended Readers: Anyone who wants to start reading mystery
Rating: ★★★★★

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

The mystery and adventure continue with A Dangerous Collaboration, the fourth novel in the Veronica Speedwell series. It’s rare to find a series that maintains its charm, fun, intrigue, and accessibility, but Deanna Raybourn has done exactly that. I love that I gave this series and new author (for me) a chance.

After the almost-revelation that Veronica and Stoker had in A Treacherous Curse, Veronica takes a few months to go on her own excursion without Stoker. When she returns, she finds she’s struggling with dissatisfaction, and there’s a distance between her and Stoker that she doesn’t like but doesn’t know how to bridge.

Her slump is broken with the arrival of Tiberius, Stoker’s half-brother and the Lord Templeton-Vane, who invites Veronica to attend Lord Malcolm Romilly’s house party with him on a remote island off the tip of Cornwall. Sensing a new adventure, Veronica jumps at the chance, even as Tiberius convinces her to pose as his fiancée, to Stoker’s annoyance (oh, hello, trope I absolutely love with all my heart). But there’s more behind this invitation than just a house party, and Veronica and Stoker find themselves investigating the party-goers and their connection to Rosamund, Romilly’s missing wife who disappeared from her own wedding three years ago.

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Most Anticipated Book Releases – August 2018

Hey all! Back with another anticipated book release round, this time for August 2018. This year is just flying by, it seems, but at least the book releases have kept up.

I’m going to be doing the formatting for these a little differently, at least for now as I try new things out. But enough talking shop, let’s get to the books!

City-of-Ghosts


City of Ghosts
by Victoria Schwab takes the top spot because frankly, I love Schwab and I trust her. After many successful YA and Adult series, she’s now bringing her talents to the Middle Grade genre. I haven’t read any Middle Grade books in a long time, so I’m excited to dive back in and meet Cassidy Blake and her ghost best friend, Jacob (and possibly a cat???) as they investigate Scotland for malevolent spirits who should’ve been sent beyond the Veil instead of being left to haunt her world. Sounds spooky and fun, I’m in! Release date: August 28

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Book Review: And I Darken

and i darken

Title: And I Darken
Author:
 Kiersten White
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Version: Paperback
Page Count: 512
Publisher: Ember
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Feminism, LGBT characters, POC characters
Recommended Readers: Those interested in a slow-build, female Vlad the Impaler retelling
Rating: ★★★★☆

I read And I Darken by Kiersten White with @dearjenna for our Femme Trash bookclub, and I was happily surprised by it.

The historical figure Vlad the Impaler and the Dracula legend based off him is one of my favorites, so I was worried about how changing him into a female character would go. (This is purely for selfish reasons as I have quite a crush on Vlad, vampire version mostly but historical figure, too.)

But I’m happy to report that Ladislav “Lada” Dragwlya was an incredible character, and this book was an impressive and intricate historical retelling that’s just getting started.

White’s writing style was particularly refreshing because it never once became flowery or dipped into purple prose to make the events of the novel seem more beautiful or profound than they were. Instead, White’s style is blunt but with an edge you didn’t realize had cut you until you realize the full impact of what you just read is saying:

As the baby latched on with surprising fierceness, the nurse offered her own prayer.
Let her be strong.
Let her be sly.
And let her be ugly.

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Book Review: The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One

9781449489427_frontcover

Title: The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One
Author:
 Amanda Lovelace
Genre: Poetry
Version: ARC – eBook
Page Count: 208
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Free verse poetry, Feminism
Recommended Readers: Women especially, but men should read this, too, honestly
Rating: ★★★★★

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

My second foray into contemporary free verse poetry went much better than my last, if my high rating is any indication. The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One is my first read from Amanda Lovelace, covering topics ranging from historic female oppression to the 2017 Women’s March.

And I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

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