ARC Review: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C Dao (Rise of the Empress #1) + Fan Art

33958230Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
Author: Julie C Dao
Series: Rise of the Empress #1
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Publisher: Philomel Books
Get it Here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Synopsis:

“A richly developed fantasy world coupled with an ambitious anti-heroine of complex agency, this story shines and surprises at every turn.” Marie Lu, #1 New York Times bestselling author

An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl’s quest to become Empress–and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny.

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

One-Way-Or-An-Author-Review

“In the silence, the hunger began – deep and primal and fierce, stronger than anger, more potent than lust. The creature preened, its poison caress sending tingles of need into every fiber of her body. She was helpless in the face of its desire, for its craving was hers, as well.”

This sentence, full of aching hunger and intensity, is a great example of the beautiful yet scheming story that Julie Dao presents in Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. We watch one girl’s grapple between her dark destiny and the road towards light that sets the course towards turmoil in the court of the kingdom. This book is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Xifeng is an admirable, ambitious young woman who does not hesitate to rise up and take what she wants. Throughout the book, she battles between the fate that her Guma, or aunt, set up for her, and the whispers of happiness with her lover Wei that would eventually prove unsatisfying. Continue reading

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ARC Review: The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera + Fan Art

29760778The Tiger’s Daughter
Author: K. Arsenault Rivera
Series: Their Bright Ascendancy #1
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Tor Books
Get it Here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Synopsis:

Even gods can be slain

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach—but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.

Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.

This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

A crack in the wall heralds the end…two goddesses arm themselves…K Arsenault Rivera’s The Tiger’s Daughter is an adventure for the ages.

One-Way-Or-An-Author-Review

Note: This book contains mature content (sexy times) and graphic violence. Please be aware!

I admit, this book was not on my radar at first. I requested it solely because of the lesbian romance and the aspect of fighting demons. I would soon find out that not only does this book feature those things, but also an expansive Mongolian-inspired world (as well as an issue that I discuss below), and a slowly burgeoning romance that would make my heart burst with both love and satisfaction. The Tiger’s Daughter is a beautiful tale that will burrow its way into your heart, as you traverse through the land with Shizuka, Shefali, and their grand love story. Continue reading

Book Review: Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee (Sidekick Squad #1) + Fan Art!

29904219Not Your Sidekick
Author: CB Lee
Series: Sidekick Squad #1
Release Date: September 8, 2016
Publisher: Duet Books
Get it Here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Synopsis:

Welcome to Andover… where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.

One-Way-Or-An-Author-Review

This was one super cute, super extraordinary book about a group of teens who live in a futuristic setting where superheroes run rampant, saving the day from supervillains. Although the writing seemed a bit juvenile at times, I thought of this as a positive – that means younger readers can also delight in this wonderful, respectful, and lovely read with #ownvoices representation. I loved going through the heads of each of the characters, and overall it was just a fast read with plenty of action and fun times to keep a reader going. Continue reading

Book Review: Freedom Swimmer by Wai Chim + Fan Art

31359509Freedom Swimmer
Author: Wai Chim
Release Date: September 1, 2016
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Get it Here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Synopsis:
Ming survived the famine that killed his parents during China’s ‘Great Leap Forward’, and lives a hard but adequate life, working in the fields…When a group of city boys comes to the village as part of a Communist Party re-education program, Ming and his friends aren’t sure what to make of the new arrivals. They’re not used to hard labour and village life. But despite his reservations, Ming befriends a charming city boy called Li. The two couldn’t be more different, but slowly they form a bond over evening swims and shared dreams…But as the bitterness of life under the Party begins to take its toll on both boys, they begin to imagine the impossible: freedom.

One-Way-Or-An-Author-Review

This historical fiction novel made me tear up with its words and characters. Freedom Swimmer transports readers back to 1900’s Communist China under the direction of Mao Zedong, following two young boys as they struggle to balance between the patriotism of their countrymen and the freedom they seek. This particular story also holds a special place in my heart because my own parents and grandparents experienced the Cultural Revolution and the effects it had on the country throughout the century. Freedom Swimmer is also based on a true story, as Chee’s father was a freedom swimmer himself. This #ownvoices novel of Chinese teens will capture the hearts of readers as their respective backgrounds and experiences accumulate in the search for freedom and escape from the propaganda that dominates their life.

“A few year ago, the entire village was talking about ‘The Great Leap Forward’ delivering glory to China. Now, the Cadre had a new term for it: the lack of food, the hunger, the starving and finally the dying.”

Continue reading

Book Review: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

30312700Alex, Approximately
Author: Jenn Bennett
Release Date: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Get it Here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Synopsis:

The one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new archnemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever it is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

One-Way-Or-An-Author-Review

This fun, summery contemporary read was so delightful to read! Bennett’s contemporaries have been a success, and I do adore her refreshing writing, coupled with delightful characters who undergo tremendous growth and gorgeous settings. Alex, Approximately follows a film-loving girl on her huge move from the city to a small surfing town in California, where she creates memorable friendships and explores family relationships. With a fresh, relaxing vibe to carry out Bailey’s summer, the setting of the book was absolutely magnetic and un-put-downable – a perfect summer read! Continue reading

ARC Review: The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare (Girl Meets Duke #1)

33259027The Duchess Deal
Author: Tessa Dare
Series: Girl Meets Duke #1
Release Date: August 22, 2017
Publisher: Avon
Get it Here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Synopsis:

When girl meets Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules…Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.

His terms are simple:
– They will be husband and wife by night only.
– No lights, no kissing.
– No questions about his battle scars.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.

But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:
– They will have dinner together every evening.
– With conversation.
– And unlimited teasing.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…

One-Way-Or-An-Author-Review

Thank you Edelweiss and Avon for the review copy!

Tessa Dare always provides comical historical romances with the sweetest characters, and The Duchess Deal was no different! I have to admit, after reading pretty much most of her works, there were some familiar tropes she used that were also seen in other books as well. However, that didn’t detract from the lovely story and romance at all. All I can say is that after finishing the book (at 2 am in the morning, no less), my heart was just full of love. This was definitely another successful work for Dare! (And look at that cover – absolutely gorgeous.) Continue reading

ARC Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

25489134The Bear and the Nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Series: Book 1
Release Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: Harper Teen
Get it Here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Synopsis:

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

One-Way-Or-An-Author-Review

While The Bear and the Nightingale takes readers on a slow journey, each detail and description helps the story come to life as we follow the growth and adventure of Vasilisa Petrovna, or Vasya. Raised in the woods of Russia, called Lesnaya Zemlya, Vasya lives with her four other siblings, widowed father, and nursemaid, Dunya, who starts the book off telling a story. Stories and fairy tales play a large role in the book, as Vasya discovers how intermingled her world is with these seemingly inconsequential stories and how much of an impact they will have on her family and village. The Bear and the Nightingale is very character-focused on Vasya, her impudence and wildness, and the lengths she would take to save the people she love, even as they doubt her. Continue reading

Book Review: The Queen and the Cure by Amy Harmon (The Bird and the Sword Chronicles #2)

34845313The Queen and the Cure
Author: Amy Harmon
Series: The Bird and the Sword Chronicles #2
Release Date: May 9, 2017
Publisher: Self-Published
Get it Here: Only $4.99 on Amazon Kindle!

Synopsis:

“There will be a battle, and you will need to protect your heart.”

Kjell of Jeru had always known who he was. He’d never envied his brother or wanted to be king. He was the bastard son of the late King Zoltev and a servant girl, and the ignominy of his birth had never bothered him.

But there is more to a man than his parentage. More to a man than his blade, his size, or his skills, and all that Kjell once knew has shifted and changed. He is no longer simply Kjell of Jeru, a warrior defending the crown. Now he is a healer, one of the Gifted, and a man completely at odds with his power.

Called upon to rid the country of the last vestiges of the Volgar, Kjell stumbles upon a woman who has troubling glimpses of the future and no memory of the past. Armed with his unwanted gift and haunted by regret, Kjell becomes a reluctant savior, beset by old enemies and new expectations. With the woman by his side, Kjell embarks upon a journey where the greatest test may be finding the man she believes him to be.

One-Way-Or-An-Author-Review

Note: This is the sequel companion to The Bird and the Sword, which I reviewed over here. It contains tiny, slight spoilers about the first book.

The moment I saw this cover and Amy Harmon’s name, I knew it had to be a companion of sorts to the book The Bird and the Sword, a delicious, romantic fantasy that I had the pleasure to read and love last year. The main character, Lark, was a quietly powerful heroine whose lack of voice made her actions all the more meaningful. While Lark and Tiras have cameos in this story, it centers upon Kjell, the half-brother of Tiras and bastard son of the king who discovered in the previous book that he was Gifted and had the power of healing. The Queen and the Cure was another more quiet, yet still emotional read that had tremendous characterization as both Kjell and Sasha tried to find where they belonged in a fantasy world that is progressing and changing. Continue reading

Mini-Reviews: Sad Sequels For Some Historical Romance Series

Many of y’all know that I read historical romances for fun. They’re fast, flighty, flirty, and always give me feel-good vibes because of Happily Ever Afters. (As a reader I generally lean more towards those kind of books.) Maybe I’m growing a bit more cynical or getting to used to the common tropes used, however, as both these historical were unfortunately not very impressive for me. Let’s hope my next reads are!


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