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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New Books I’m Hyped for: July – December 2021

Welcome back to another post where I highlight books I’m excited for in a truly excessive fashion. Will most of these books be featured on other people’s lists? Probably. Will that stop me? No. I like what I like, and the sounds of these are very pleasing. We have an East Asian YA fantasy that is a retelling of The Wild Swans; an adult fantasy novel where all the protagonists are renowned villains; a work set in Victorian London featuring an African tightrope dancer who cannot die; and much more!

I’m looking forward to seeing which of these will be my favorite book releases between July and December 2021, especially compared to which ones the book community at large will fawn over.

[slaps the roof of this post] This baby can fit so many books inside it, so let’s get started!

July

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim
(July 6th)

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

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New Books I’m Hyped for: January – June 2021

[Shaky wave] Hi, there. So, yeah, I’m back, sorta. 2020 was definitely not my year for reading or posting due to [checks notes] oh, yeah, everything that was going on. While 2021 is still proving to be emotionally and mentally taxing in many ways, I’m also feeling an affinity for reading and posting again. Frankly, I miss books, and I’m hoping that by being a bit more active about them, I will rekindle the fervor I used to have. I’m still not counting on posting as much this year as I did in past years. I want to focus much more on things that are exciting and fun for me, along with paying attention to my mental health and what it can stand.

I figured a post about what 2021 is bringing in terms of new books could be a start, a way to look forward about what will come. Here are the ones that seem pretty cool for the first half of 2021.

January

Crown of Bones by A.K. Wilder
(January 5th)

Raise. Your. Phantom.

For fans of epic fantasies and sweeping adventures, this ensemble cast will immerse you in a world of unique magic, breathtaking action and unforgettable characters.

In a world on the brink of the next Great Dying, no amount of training can prepare us for what is to come …

A young heir will raise the most powerful phantom in all of Baiseen.

A dangerous High Savant will do anything to control the nine realms.

A mysterious and deadly Mar race will steal children into the sea.

And a handsome guide with far too many secrets will make me fall in love.

My name is Ash. A lowly scribe meant to observe and record. And yet I think I’m destined to surprise us all.

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ARC Review: Persephone Station

Title: Persephone Station
Author: Stina Leicht
Genre: Adult Sci-Fi
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 512
Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press
Add To-Read on: GoodReadsStoryGraph
Notable Notables: Characters that are predominately female and non-binary with LGBTQ+ rep
Recommended Readers: Seekers of feminism in space opera
CAWPILE Rating: 3.14
Star Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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

My Review

I was taken in by Stina Leicht’s Persephone Station the moment I saw its beautifully artistic cover and was sold when I read what it was being compared to: a blend of Cowboy Bebop and The Mandalorian but with a leading cast of women, non-binary, and queer characters.

Upon reading it, however, my excitement quickly fizzled. By far the coolest thing about the book is its cover, not the representation it delivers. The author seems to have focused so hard on providing good, squeaky-clean diversity and rep that she forgot a key element: making the characters and its plot interesting. There isn’t a hint of the eclectic friction found in the Cowboy Bebop cast, and it’s also sorely missing the heart of The Mandalorian. If I could sum up Persephone Station and its characters in a few words, they would be “safe and boring.”

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Five-Star Predictions: April 2020 Books

I’m not gonna lie, folks. I’m feeling supremely unmotivated during this period of quarantining and sheltering-in-place, at least when it comes to reading. I’ve been filling my time with a lot of video games, like Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and the almost-here Final Fantasy VII Remake. Still, I want to aim to get a few posts out this month to talk books with you because staying connected with others is even more important than usual now.

Today, I want to cover the books coming out this April that I believe in my heart will earn a five-star rating from me, and I’d like to remind any readers to support ordering online or doing curbside pickup with your local bookstores should any of these catch your eye!

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Five-Star Predictions: February 2020 Books

Oh, wow, it’s finally February. I won’t lie. I was one of those people that thought January lasted a whole year. Not sure why; maybe it’s winter finally getting to me. (Lies. It gets to me as soon as it comes.)

That’s why I talk about books here. Books make me happy, and February 2020 is coming out with a whole bunch of them. Rather than regale you with every book that’s caught my eye this month, I’m going to try and predict which will earn five stars of pure love and enjoyment from me. Y’know, whenever I get to read them. (And if the cover is blue, odds are it’s here lol.)

b99

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TTT: Books I Want to Reread in 2020

With so many books on our to-read lists, it’s hard to make time for books we’ve read and deeply miss. That’s why one of my goals for 2020 is to stop stressing so much and reread, both because some books are beloved and because I can’t very well read the sequels until I remember what’s going on in the first one, can I?

I deeply encourage anyone reading this to consider rereading at least one favorite book this year, and if you want to compile a list of your own, please do so and tag me! I’d love to see what books are on your mind.

As for me and this Top Ten Tuesday post, I’m happy to see my selection of books I want to reread in 2020 be much more varied than I expected.

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Five-Star Predictions: January 2020 Books

Greetings, all! I must again apologize for my absence of a posting schedule lately, but I’m just playing things fast and loose right now. (And honestly, my life is also being consumed by Fire Emblem: Three Houses. It’s a wonder I’m getting any reading done at all.)

I’ve been thinking about how I can spice up my posts for my most-anticipated book releases from month to month. I feel that sometimes they’re too much and get too long, but finally I’ve figured out what I can do to create more focused posts. Because obviously, I’m going to be looking forward to a ton of books no matter what, but what are going to be the ones that ultimately stick the landing for me?

That’s why I’m going to be featuring 2020 book releases that I’m predicting will nab a five-star rating from me. I wonder how accurate my instincts will be for January.

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October 2019 Book Releases

October is here, and that means creepy decorations, sugar-induced comas, and new books—all in time for Halloween! From a vampire murder mystery set in 1800s New Orleans to a creepy black door that lurks in every soul, this batch of books seems to be leaning into deliciously macabre and ghoulish themes.

Let’s get spoopy!

ninth house
Release Date: October 8 | Goodreads

The mesmerizing adult debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo.

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

Why I Want to Read This: Leigh Bardugo is one of my few auto-buy authors at this point, and I have been intrigued by Ninth House, Bardugo’s first foray into adult fantasy since she first announced it. Not just because it sounds dark and gritty, but also because of this mysterious occult element it’s touting, too. Secret societies have also been a weird fascination of mine, and Alex herself sounds like a protagonist I very much want to get to know. Ultimately, though, I love coming into this book, having absolutely no clue what’s going to happen and where it’s going to go, and from a new series standpoint, that is so exciting.

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It’s Time to Say Goodbye: Books I’m Letting Go

I’m about to move soon, and on principle, I hate moving. Though the settling in is wonderful, the process is never smooth or glamorous, and it’s also the time when I become the most ruthless. Namely, I throw out or give away things I don’t want to waste energy moving. This time, I’ve realized I have a lot of books, many of which I’ve had for two previous moves that I still haven’t read, so I felt it was time to cull their number.

What I’ve done is a speed-round of reading: I’ve picked up books from my TBR shelf and given the first chapter a read. If I liked what I saw, they stayed, and if I didn’t, well… It’s time to say goodbye.

What follows is a list of books I’m finally letting go, with explanations as to why after reading the first chapter. I figured people might like to see, but I also need it for my own records of why I shouldn’t pursue them further. Sometimes, it’s best to just move on and make room for other interests.

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