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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abc book challenge

The ABC Book Challenge – L

Hey, everyone! I’m finally back with another ABC Book Challenge post. I decided to do this to add more variety to the blog and also because it looked incredibly fun (and so far, it is!). Once again, thank you to Sofii @A Book. A Thought. for introducing this tag to me, and for her support. You should definitely check out her blog if you haven’t already!

Here’s the challenge: Every week (though I have not strictly been following this, haaaa), I’ll have a post sharing my most favorite titles as well as those on my current TBR list that start with the corresponding letter. (For weird letters like Q, X, and Z, I might have to bend the rules a little and just have those letters somewhere in the title, but we’ll see.)

This week is the letter L!

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Book Review: King of Scars

king of scarsTitle: King of Scars
Author:
 Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: Hardback
Page Count: 514
Publisher: Imprint
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Spin-off duology, exploring more with previously established characters
Recommended Readers: Fans of both Six of Crows and the Grishaverse trilogy–especially those that wanted more from the latter
Rating: ★★★★★

I was able to finally get to Leigh Bardugo’s King of Scars, and I’m so happy I did because she took my low but timidly hopeful expectations and delivered on them in the most delicious, agonizingly slow way.

Here, we follow Nikolai Lantsov, the king of Ravka, who is trying to keep his country from falling once again into a war with enemies surrounded on all sides, balancing the threads of power along with finding ways to protect his people. Perhaps his greatest challenge, however, is to discover a way to be rid of the dark magic the defeated Darkling left within him, turning him at night into a monstrous creature devoid of reason or thought. Grisha Squaller Zoya Nazyalensky must also find a way to protect king and country no matter what the cost, even if that means sacrificing Nikolai for the sake of her people. Meanwhile, Nina Zenick is undercover on a mission in Fjerda. Deep in enemy territory, she is seeking to bury her past and find meaning in the future by saving as many Grisha as possible.

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reading challenge

Reading Challenge Update – April 2019

Hey, I’m back with a new reading challenge update! April was a slower month for me, mostly because I hit a book slump toward the beginning of the month because something I was reading just wasn’t doing it for me.

I wonder if you can guess which one it was. 😉

The Five-Star Favs

wicked saints
Finished: 4/3/19 | Rating: ★★★★★

Challenges met:

Wicked Saints has solidified itself as a modern gothic fiction novel—it has that romantic horror vibe to me—and I’d love to see certain scenes on the big screen, namely That One with Serefin. [Review]

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Book Review: Blood Heir

blood heir

Title: Blood Heir
Author:
 Amélie Wen Zhao
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 496
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Anastasia retelling, POC characters
Recommended Readers: Fans of fantasy and X-Men
Rating: ★★★★★

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

Please note: this is a review of the original ARC before the subsequent pull and re-publication of the novel.

Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao follows Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess of the Cyrilian Empire, who is presumed dead and in hiding after being framed for the murder of her father, the Emperor. To clear her name and find the real killer, Ana enlists the help of notorious con man Ramson Quicktongue, who has dark ambitions of his own. However, Ramson’s ulterior motives aren’t Ana’s only concern. She is an Affinite, a person with a particular gift at controlling the world around them, but Ana’s affinity isn’t earth, wind, the mind, or even flesh—it’s blood, and it comes with deadly intent. As Ana learns more about the dark side of her country—particularly how rampant the human trafficking trade for Affinites truly is—she must face what she is willing to do to change it, including embracing herself and her own power.

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may 2019 book releases

May 2019 Book Releases

Hooray, it’s May–and with it come my birthday and a new selection of my most anticipated book releases!

Even if you haven’t enjoyed all this pollen we’ve suffered for the May flowers everywhere (at least where I am), this month has so many good books in store to make up for it.

Including a new series by two of my favorite duo authors:

aurora rising
Release Date: May 7 | Goodreads

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.

Why I Want to Read This: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff were born to write stories together. I fell head over heels for the Illuminae Files, so I screamed when I saw they were doing Aurora Rising together. This time with more traditional storytelling featuring a colorful ensemble cast. I was going to try to predict who my favorite character is going to be, but I don’t think I can. They all sound so amazing, and I cannot wait to get to know them all (and suffer alongside them). Yeah, I know how these authors do. I’m already trying to connect the dots between the title, the Aurora Academy, and this girl Aurora that’s coming out of two centuries’ worth of cryo-sleep. What are y’all up to???

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Book Review: Wicked Saints

wicked saints
Title:
 Wicked Saints
Author:
 Emily A. Duncan
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: Hardcover
Page Count: 385
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Dark, gothic atmosphere with no punches pulled, villain romance, diverse cast
Recommended Readers: No moral purists allowed
Rating: ★★★★★

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

Before we get started, note that Duncan used 99% real Eastern European names within her novel, and that is absolutely awesome that she didn’t dilute these names and the culture just because the names are “hard to pronounce.” More like, a lot of us aren’t used to them because of how often Western societies have forced people with these names to change them, so I’m very happy to see them here. For those curious, Duncan uploaded a handy pronunciation guide on her Twitter that I absolutely referenced while reading.

The countries Kalyazin and Tranavia have been locked in a holy war for centuries. On one side are clerics who derive their magic from praying to their patron deity; on the other side are blood mages who have rejected the gods. As the war shifts in Tranavia’s favor, Nadezhda “Nadya” Lapteva finds she’s the last cleric left in Kalyazin, but instead of only hearing the voice of her patron goddess, she hears all of them, an unheard of feat. When her monastery is attacked by the High Prince of Tranavia, she is forced to flee, becoming entangled in a plot with two foreign Akolans and a rogue Tranavian that could turn the tide of the war.

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Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone

Children of Blood and Bone

Title: Children of Blood and Bone
Author:
 Tomi Adeyemi
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: Hardcover
Page Count: 531
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Nigerian-based mythology, all-black cast of characters
Recommended Readers: Anyone looking for diversity and beginner fantasy
Rating: ★★★☆☆

You know, for once, I’m giving a rating that absolutely kills me to give. But you gotta be honest about your feelings, right? I just wasn’t blown away by Children of Blood and Bone. I liked parts of it, but definitely not all of it.

Is it because the hype was too high and I had greater expectations going into this than I realized? I’m not sure yet.

In this debut novel, maji used to conjure great and awe-inspiring magic, each of them connected to a specific deity. However, a ruthless king came to fear them, sealing their magic away and killing them, leaving only their children alive who never came into their own power. But with the help of an ancient scroll and a crown princess gone rogue, Zélie is determined to bring magic back to the land of Orïsha and inspire her people to rise up against their oppressors.

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Book Review: Beneath the Citadel

beneath the citadel
Title:
 Beneath the Citadel
Author:
 Destiny Soria
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 480
Publisher: Amulet Books
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Diverse, LGBTQA+ characters
Recommended Readers: Fans of ensemble casts, slower plots
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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

I loved Destiny Soria’s Iron Cast and was greatly looking forward to this book, but after finishing it… Iron Cast was better by far.

I’ve had a hard time determining if Beneath the Citadel just isn’t for me, or if it isn’t for me right now. Would I have enjoyed it more if I was in a better mood for it, or would my thoughts still be the same? Unfortunately, I have absolutely no urge to reread it to find out, but who knows? Maybe I will someday.

The novel takes place in the fictional city of Eldra, where infallible prophecies determine events and the fate of the people. The High Council rules with an iron fist, taking advantage of the gifts of rooks, diviners, seers, and sentients to prevent threats to their power. As a result, the last rebellion was crushed underfoot, leaving only their children as bitter survivors. Cassa, the daughter of rebels, seeks to expose the council’s corruption and overthrow them, and the key to doing so lies beneath the Citadel—but she and her friends have to break in and get there alive first.

Before I get more into the plot, let’s talk about my reactions to the characters.

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