My Review of UNDER THE PENDULUM SUN by Jeannette Ng

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Disclaimer:
The following review will be packed full of spoilers. If you haven’t read the book already, don’t read this review.

Brontë-esque gothic…
Folk of the air…
Abrahamic diegesis…

Et voilà, UNDER THE PENDULUM SUN!

Seriously though, this book is such a treat. I’ve loved fantasy books about fair folks. I’ve loved gothic fiction with all my heart. I’ve loved and read the two comparatively well-known Brontë sisters. And I’ve always always adored books whose bases have been built solidly upon the Abrahamic tales and events. Being from one of the main Abrahamic religions myself, it makes me sit up straight and gobble up whatever fictions are based on anything remotely related to the Abrahamic religions.

So of course, I stayed up all night devouring this book, hiding my phone’s glow from my parents who occasionally sauntered into the room for various reasons. My eyes are (almost) bloodshot and deprived of sleep but I’m high on this book and I must leave a review as soon as possible.

So what is this book about?

25 years old Catherine Helstone (the surname is a pun) goes to the elusive, mythical faeland called Elphane or Arcadia, to investigate what has become of her older brother (her only living family), the missionary Reverend Laon Helstone, who’s been unresponsive to her letters for quite a long time. Uncommonly close since childhood and grown up in the atmospheric world of the Yorkshire moors, Catherine must unearth whatever happened to her beloved older brother. And when they two are finally reunited, the joy is short-lived, for Queen Mab, the majestic queen of the fair folks, is hot on his heels. The two siblings cling to one another for life, as their lives and sanity are mercilessly tossed and toyed with to the whim of the fair folks.

This book is chock-full of Abrahamic allusions, mostly Biblical ones, as well as literary allusions. Catherine is named after both Catherine Earnshaw, the rebellious protagonist of WUTHERING HEIGHTS, in love with her adopted brother, Heathcliff; as well as Catherine Morland, the naïve protagonist in Jane Austen’s NORTHANGER ABBEY, who explores the titled abbey in search of insidious mysteries she is often warned against, much like our own Cathy here. Meanwhile, Laon is named after the character Laon from Shelley’s poem, THE REVOLT OF ISLAM, where a pair of siblings go against the norms and pays for it dearly. If you’ve read JANE EYRE, you’ll instantly recognize the first meeting scene between Laon and Catherine in the book, as well as the eerie resemblance between their childhood spent in the moors and that of the two sibling lovers in WUTHERING HEIGHTS. At any rate, this book is such a beautiful homage to the Brontë sisters and their gothic tales. You’ll even find a madwoman in the attic (or rather the cellar) chased to the rooftop, a fire that envelops the sibling lovers, and a wizened nurse who looks after the aforementioned madwoman, an unfortunate wife driven to madness by her husband’s selfish cruelty towards her.

Anyway, what pulled me toward this book was the pitch: Victorian missionaries in faerie land preaching God’s words to beings whose existence is dubious according to the Bible. Like in all her other colonial conquests, England sends missionaries to conquer the faeland as well. Never before has anyone mashed the ethereal fairies with the Abrahamic religions and its contents. In most books of faeries, nobody ever tried to explore what would happen if these fantastical beings’ existence was tried to be explained and justified according to Christianity. Jeannette Ng does this. Her excellent way of weaving such a tale has created a unique masterpiece never been done before and I love it to bits!

I’d also like to discuss the similarities we find between Catherine and Laon’s story and the Abrahamic creation myth. While in Islam and Christianity, there is only Adam and Eve and nobody else before or after them, Judaism reminds us of the forgotten existence of Lilith, Adam’s first wife who was created, not from one of his ribs, but from the same clay from which he too was made. But because of her disobedience to submit to Adam, she was cast out like Satan was and Eve was created from Adam’s ribs, the blood of his blood and the flesh of his flesh. Like Adam and Lilith, who are considered siblings in this book, Laon and Catherine are siblings too. But unlike Adam and Lilith, they share the same blood and flesh, almost as if they’re also Adam and Eve. Like Lilith, Catherine refuses to obey her older brother’s orders, be it to return to England in two weeks or not try to decipher the mysteries of the Arcadian castle they’re living in. Like Eve, Catherine pursues knowledge forbidden for mankind, a language of the angels, lost and now found but indecipherable and cryptic. Like Eve, Catherine is pulled toward the forbidden fruits of knowledge. Like Adam following Eve’s suit, Laon is also pulled into this pursuit of forbidden knowledge. But the real forbidden fruit for them is the lust and passionate love they feel for each other. Their sexual and romantic attractions are so intensely passionate that they both seek respite from it, to the point Laon even takes up missionary work to escape the forbidden pull he feels toward the little sister he cannot have this way. And once they do get a taste of this forbidden fruit, they cannot untaste it. They cannot stop themselves and this is their real undoing. And then, in the end, they become Adam and Eve, cast aside from the Eden (which here is the human world) to a foreign, dangerous land where they must stick together to survive and spread God’s words. Their love is forbidden and sinful, yet they cannot survive without each other, no matter what. Their creation myth is so much like Adam and Eve, and yet it is not. The “Eden” they’ve been cast out of is not really an Eden, what with colonialism destroying the world and industrialism and capitalism following suit in that mission of destruction. The “earth” they’re cast into is not the lush earth Adam and Eve were cast into, rather truly the hell that’s never been blessed with Christ’s descent into it; even God does not exert any of His control over it. Like Adam and Eve, Laon and Catherine’s job is to venture into this barren, treacherous territory and spread God’s words and wisdom in it. Like Adam and Eve, they are the only humans in this hellscape. When I say that Jeannette Ng has outdone it, I mean she has REALLY outdone it.

One more thing I’d like to discuss. A lot of readers are repulsed by the inclusion of incest in the book. While their reaction is justified, I’d say the incest was not romanticized at all. It was a necessary, albeit not universally accepted, component of this particular tale. Incest is one of the most unforgivable sins out there and by having a reverend and his devout sister commit such a heinous sin, we are shown even the best among us can be capable of such sins, just as Adam was the best among God’s creation and he and Eve fell from Heaven. Adam and Eve and Lilith and the creation myth, all of it are themes so deeply entrenched at the base of this story, you cannot do justice to this story without the incest inclusion. The incest here is revolting, a sin you cannot forgive and forget, even the Helstone siblings cannot. But by pushing the limits in this area, Jeannette Ng has achieved a masterpiece into existence unlike any other.

Overall, this book is going straight to my all-time favorite shelf on GoodReads. I’d heartily recommend this book to anyone who loves to read books about wicked faeries, gothic fantasy, and Abrahamic diegesis. This is not a book for all, but this is a book that’ll conquer your heart if it is.

My Review of THE PERFECT WORLD OF MIWAKO SUMIDA by Clarissa Goenawan

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Clarissa Goenawan did it again!

I started THE PERFECT WORLD OF MIWAKO SUMIDA at the end of May, taking a small break in between two blog tours. It was supposed to be a break book, a break read, something that’s supposed to cleanse my palate and help me get back onto reading more books for the tour.

Little did I know it’d suck me in like vacuum cleaner and not let me leave until I had to wrench myself out of the book and force myself to go read the book for the last blog tour. But I did not forget Miwako Sumida. As soon as I finished the last blog tour, I rushed back to her, determined to finish the book this time without interruption.

And what a read it was!

Like Goenawan’s previous book (her debut), her sophomore book was equally poignant and heart-wrenching, if not with more depth and subtlety. The deftness with which the author portrays realistic grief and grieving and loss and coping. Cloaked in mystery and secrets, the story saunters ahead, as the characters take you on a relaxing but intriguing journey, both across Japan and inside your psyche. You can feel their loneliness, their sorrows and struggles, their yearnings to love and be loved back and when their love aren’t reciprocated, the shards of their broken hearts slashing wounds deep into their souls.

It hurts and you feel that hurt with them.

The story begins when 21yo college student, Miwako Sumida, leaves Tokyo abruptly and goes to live in a remote mountain hamlet in the countryside. Though she continues correspondence with her best friend and the guy who loves her, soon it ceases before the news of her suicide reaches them. Ryusei, the guy who loves her; Fumi, his older sister; and Chie, Miwako’s best friend. They each take a journey of their own, triggered by Miwako’s death. As Ryusei comes to term with Miwako’s suicide and his unrequited love, Chie comes to term with the meaning behind Miwako’s existence in her life and her own almost invisible and ordinary existence. Meanwhile, Fumi has her own demons to tackle, some from the far past and some recent. The three of them have their own stories to tell, stories about loneliness and struggles in life, not having a shoulder to cry on until Miwako’s appearance and returning to the same loneliness now that she’s gone. Little by little, we learn more about Miwako’s own loneliness, the girl whose ordinariness was so extraordinary, nobody could tell how much burden she carried until it was too late.

This is not a melodramatic book. Its characters are as ordinary as you and me. They can be any regular person you might’ve passed on the streets, or sat on the bus with, or stood in line with at the supermarket, or had been classmates with who never left a lasting impression on you, or even co-workers you only chatted with out of necessity. Yet, they each possess an extraordinary side we don’t see until we get to know them, ride along with them in their journey to self-discovery, and learn to love them slowly. They’re just like us yet very different from us. They’re ordinary yet extraordinary.

Just like all of us.

Personally, it was Chie’s journey that made me relate. The following paragraph, reading it made me feel seen for the first time in my life, for I too am a transparent person. I’m visible yet invisible, seen yet unseen, “the average of the average”. When I read these two paragraphs, I felt seen as if a spotlight fell on me, as if someone finally caught the part of me even I myself could not catch on.

“Transparent people, by all accounts, were normal. So normal, in fact, that they simply tended to fade into the background. If you looked carefully, you could spot them toward the end of the line during school outings, but they would never be last. In class, they sat in the middle, usually near the wall. They didn’t get the nice seats with a view by the windows. They weren’t the best students in the class, but they were doing well enough to pass their exams.

To sum up, they were the average of the average. They got along well enough with a few classmates, but none were real, close friends. They lived a quiet life in high school, college, and later on, in the workplace. They tended to marry each other because others might pull them closer to the spotlight, and they never got used to being the center of attention. They were, after all, almost unseen.”

In conclusion, I’m now a huge huge fan of Clarissa Goenawan. She has hit it out of the park TWICE now with her books. I’m waiting for the hat trick now.

Blog Tour: EVERY REASON WE SHOULDN’T (EVERY REASON WE SHOULDN’T#1) by Sara Fujimura + US Giveaway

Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: March 3rd 2020
Genre: Romance, Young Adult, Contemporary, Sports, Fiction, Teen, Cultural

Synopsis:

Warning: Contains family expectations, delightful banter, great romantic tension, skating (all kinds!), Korean pastries, and all the feels.

Fifteen-year-old, biracial figure skater Olivia Kennedy’s Olympic dreams have ended. She’s bitter, but enjoying life as a regular teenager instead of an athlete… until Jonah Choi starts training at her family’s struggling rink. Jonah’s driven, talented, going for the Olympics in speed skating, completely annoying… and totally gorgeous. Between teasing Jonah, helping her best friend try out for roller derby, figuring out life as a normal teen and keeping the family business running, Olivia’s got her hands full. But will rivalry bring her closer to Jonah, or drive them apart?

Every Reason We Shouldn’t by Sara Fujimura is a charming multicultural romance perfect for the many fans of Jenny Han and Rainbow Rowell.

Review:

⭐⭐⭐.5

Almost a decade ago I watched the teen movie, ICE PRINCESS. That was when I was introduced to ice skating of any kind. While I enjoyed the movie, it was full of white characters and their struggles to follow/not follow dreams of ice skating.

Now, I’m not familiar with anything regarding ice skating. But I know it’s one hell of a competitive, demanding, and tough sport. The athletes have to train rigorously since birth (I think) and they do not get to have a usual teen life. That movie did not capture this part of their lives.

But this book did.

When I started this book, I was completely unaware of how much a teen athlete’s life varies from a non-athlete teen’s life. This book shows how much a teen athlete has to struggle in life, no matter her dream has crashed and burned some time ago. The author deftly paints the struggles and pains (both physical and emotional) a teen athlete goes through, whose parents were Olympic level stars and who was herself on her way to reach that level before it shattered. Olivia Kennedy tries her best to return to a non-athlete teen life, but the reminders are everywhere. When another teen athlete, Jonah Choi, enters her life, the reminders are tripled.

Unlike the synopsis implies, Jonah and Olivia don’t compete with each other on the rink. But romancing an active athlete while your dream was shattered recently is one difficult job for the heart. And the author shows this expertly. Olivia tries her best at first to ingratiate into normal teen life. When she can’t ignore the pull of ice skating, she tries to mix them both. When that fails, she drives headfirst into her dreams like there’s no tomorrow. This is what makes me admire her. Her persistence and resilience. Even after she crashes and burns, she comes back from her ashes like the phoenix her skating outfit paints her to be.

Thank you, Tor Teen and FFBC Blog Tour, for providing me with an eARC for my honest review.

Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Book Depository | Kobo | Google Books

About the Author:

SARA FUJIMURA is an award-winning young adult author and creative writing teacher. She is the American half of her Japanese-American family, and has written about Japanese culture and raising bicultural children for such magazines as Appleseeds, Learning Through History, East West, and Mothering, as well as travel-related articles for To Japan With Love. Her self-published young adult novels include Tanabata Wish and Breathe. She lives in Phoenix with her husband and children.

Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Tour Schedule:

Official Tour Schedule

May 27th

The Unofficial Addiction Book Fan Club – Welcome Post

May 28th

L.M. Durand – Guest Post

Moonlight Rendezvous – Review + Favourite Quotes

Marshmallow Pudding – Review

Wonder Struck – Review

Confessions of a YA Reader – Promotional Post

May 29th

A Book Addict’s Bookshelves – Interview

Sometimes Leelynn Reads – Review + Playlist + Dream Cast

Books and Dice – Review + Favourite Quotes

Inktalkswithmaria – Review

Levicorpvs Blog – Review + Favourite Quotes + Instagram

May 30th

Kait Plus Books – Guest Post

Sincerely Karen Jo – Review + Favourite Quotes

Nikkie Reads – Review

A Million Stitches of Life – Review + Favourite Quotes

Novelsnerd – Review

May 31st

Book Briefs – Review

Books, Tea, Healthy Me – Review + Favourite Quotes

Nomadic Worlds – Review

Yet Another Amateur writer – Review

Cute and Cuddy Blogger – Review

June 1st

BookCrushin – Interview

Bookishly Nerdy – Review + Favourite Quotes

Books Less Travelled – Review

Her Book Thoughts – Review + Playlist

The Reading Life – Promotional Post

June 2nd

Wishful Endings – Review

Pages in Waves – Review + Favourite Quotes

Crazykidjournal – Review

A Logophile’s Love – Review

A Lot Of Pages – Review

GIVEAWAY:

Prize:

Win 1 of 3 copies of EVERY REASON WE SHOULDN’T by Sara Fujimura (US Only)

Starts: 27th May 2020
Ends: 10th June 2020

Enter here

Blog Tour: THE ARCHER AT DAWN (THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT#2) by Swati Teerdhala + US Giveaway

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: May 26th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, India, Cultural, Mythology

Synopsis:

The Sun Mela is many things: a call for peace, a cause for celebration, and, above all, a deadly competition. For Kunal and Esha, finally working together as rebel spies, it provides the perfect guise to infiltrate King Vardaan’s vicious court.

Kunal will return to his role as dedicated Senap soldier, at the Sun Mela to provide extra security for the palace during the peace summit for the divided nations of Jansa and Dharka. Meanwhile, Esha will use her new role as adviser to Prince Harun to keep a pulse on shifting political parties and seek out allies for their rebel cause. A radical plan is underfoot to rescue Jansa’s long-lost Princess Reha—the key to the stolen throne.

But amid the Mela games and glittering festivities, much more dangerous forces lie in wait. With the rebel Blades’ entry into Vardaan’s court, a match has been lit, and long-held secrets will force Kunal and Esha to reconsider their loyalties—to their country and to each other. Getting into the palace was the easy task; coming out together will be a battle for their lives.

Review:

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

My review will be brief but it’ll be filled with lots of gushing and fangirling. Also this book has spiked my admiration toward Swati and her writing skills. Her ability to raise the stake expertly and infuse plot twists in the story are applaudable. Some of the plot twists I really did not see coming. I flew through the book in two days and finished in a gasp.

The ending was a cliffhanger and a heartbreaker. Truly, for Kunesha shippers, for Harun and other minor character lovers, for all fans of TTAM series. For real, I had to close the book and sit back in silence to ponder over what the f*** just happened in that ending. I’d say the Dark Night of the Soul ending of this book is truly one that’ll make you mad, make you sad, and make you bad…ly anticipate for book 3 (can’t believe 2021 is still six months away!!).

Anyway, if I am gonna sum up the book in one sentence, it’ll be “Betrayal lurking in every corner, spies hidden in every brick, and twists and turns that will make you mad and sad.”

Thank you, Katherine Tegen Books and FFBC Blog Tour, for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Links:

GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iTunes | Book Depository (audiobook) | Google Play Book

About the author:

Swati Teerdhala is the author of The Tiger at Midnight series, which has appeared on both Barnes and Noble and Book Riot’s Most Anticipated Novels lists.

After graduating from the University of Virginia with a BS in finance and BA in history, she tumbled into the marketing side of the technology industry. She’s passionate about many things, including how the right ratio of curd-to-crust in a lemon tart. She currently lives in New York City.

Swati is represented by Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency.

GoodReads | Twitter | Website | Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest | Tumblr

Tour Schedule:

Official Tour Schedule

May 26th

The Unofficial Addiction Book Fan Club – Welcome Post

May 27th

Library if a Book Witch – ReviewThe Reading Fairy – Review + Favourite Quotes
Confessions of a YA Reader – Promotional Post

May 28th

Sometimes Leelynn Reads – Review + Playlist
Books Over Everything – Review
Back Shelf Book – Review + Favourite Quotes
Grownup Fangirl – Promotional Posts

May 29th

Gwendalyn’s Books – Review + Favourite QuotesA Bronx Latina Reads – Review
The Tsundoku Chronicles – Review + Favourite Quotes

May 30th

Nay’s Pink Bookshelf – Review + Favourite Quotes
Adventures and Reading – Review
books_n_sunshine – Review
Bookish Looks – Promotional Posts

May 31st

My Fangirl Chronicles – Review + Playlist + Favourite Quotes
Shut up, Shealea – Review
A Logophile’s Love – Review + Favourite Quotes
Stuck in the Stacks – Review + Playlist
Annej Reads – Promotional post

June 1st

Lauren’s Boookshelf – Review + Playlist
The Paperback Voyager – Review + Favourite Quotes
Books and Zebras – Review
Books and Dice – Review + Favourite Quotes

Instagram Schedule:

May 27th

Library of a Book WitchThe Reading Fairy
Confessions of a YA Reader

May 28th

Sometimes Leelynn Reads
Books Over Everything
Grownup Fangirl

May 29th

Gwendalyn’s BooksA Bronx Latina Reads
The Tsundoku Chronicles

May 30th

Nay’s Pink Bookshelf
Adventures and Reading
books_n_sunshine

May 31st

My Fangirl Chronicles
Annej Reads

June 1st

Lauren’s Boookshelf
Books and Zebras
Books and Dice

GIVEAWAY:

Prize: Win a copy of THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT and THE ARCHER AT DAWN by Swati Teerdhala (US Only)

Starts: 26th May 2020
Ends: 9th June 2020

Enter here

My review of THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT (THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT#1) by Swati Teerdhala

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Wowza! That was…

takes a deep breath

INTENSE FERVENT PASSIONATE ANGSTY FEVERISH HEATED AND DID I MENTION ANGSTY AND INTENSE???

The last time I felt this kind of angsty intensity in a romantic couple was Elias and Laia from AN EMBER IN THE ASHES and I am NOT exaggerating when I say Kunal and Esha remind me of those two crazy in love lovebirds.

Every time Kunal and Esha share a scene I just went

Remember how South Korean director Bong Joon-ho smashed his Oscar trophies in a kissy kissy stance??

I wanted to do that with Esha and Kunal every single time they shared even an eye contact. Whenever they were in the same room! Whenever they were in a 10km radius!!

JUST GRAB THEIR HEADS AND SMASH THEM INTO A KISS!! JUST KISS ALREADY, YOU!!

crumples in a heap

Anyhoo, if you’re a fan of the EMBER series and shipped Laia and Elias hardddd and have been waiting thirsting famishing for a book with the same angsty intensity, look no further. THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT has all the elements you, an Emberling, have been searching for. This book got oodles of flirty and angsty banter, an intense cat-and-mouse chase, political schemes and traps, rebels and spies and assassins, soldiers and wars and tyrannical kings, coups and rumored lost royalty and enemies-to-lovers trope to its supreme glory. Based on Hindu mythology, the story has gods and divine magic and myths and legends of its own. The world building is dazzling and will suck you in and won’t let you leave.

There are also two himbo cinnamon roll supporting characters and I love them to bits, one more than the other but I won’t share who 😉😉

So, if you’re in a drought of finding no books that will quench your EMBERling thirst, this is the book you must must pick up.

Thank you, Katherine Tegen Books, for providing me with the eARC in exchange for my honest review.

Blog tour: DARK SKIES (DARK SHORES #2) by Danielle Jensen + US giveaway

Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: May 5th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Book synopsis:

A RUNAWAY WITH A HIDDEN PAST
Lydia is a scholar, but books are her downfall when she meddles in the plots of the most powerful man in the Celendor Empire. Her life in danger, she flees west to the far side of the Endless Seas and finds herself entangled in a foreign war where her burgeoning powers are sought by both sides.

A COMMANDER IN DISGRACE
Killian is Marked by the God of War, but his gifts fail him when the realm under the dominion of the Corrupter invades Mudamora. Disgraced, he swears his sword to the kingdom’s only hope: the crown princess. But the choice sees him caught up in a web of political intrigue that will put his oath – and his heart – to the test.

A KINGDOM UNDER SIEGE
With Mudamora falling beneath the armies of the Corrupter, Lydia and Killian strike a bargain to save those they love most—but it is a bargain with unintended and disastrous consequences. Truths are revealed, birthrights claimed, and loyalties questioned—all while a menace deadlier and more far-reaching than they realize sweeps across the world.

My review:

(disclaimer: I received an eARC from the publishers in exchange for my honest opinion. This has not impacted my review in any way.)

⭐⭐⭐.5

If you’ve read DARK SHORES, DARK SKIES will seem to start a little slow to you, since this sequel goes back and starts from the time we first meet Teriana and her fateful visit to Senator Valerius’ mansion in the first book. It felt a little slow to me too at the beginning, almost repeating the same events we saw through Teriana’s eyes. But this time, we see them through Lydia’s eyes, the bookworm best friend Teriana had who we thought betrayed her and then was killed from drowning.

But she survives!

Lydia, suffering traumatizing abuse from her tyrannical husband Cassius’ hands, finds her way to the dark shores herself but through a way different from what we saw in DARK SHORES. There, she chances upon our other protagonist for this book, Killian, and like Marcus, Killian has his own story, his own secrets and past. Like Teriana and Marcus, the author also builds a slow-burn relationship between the two, albeit taking more time with this one and I love it. But fear not, like me you’ll fly through the pages, for this book has a more breakneck pace than its predecessor, throwing at us twists and turns you would not expect.

I connected more with Lydia than I did with Teriana and Marcus, even Killian. She’s a bookworm like me, someone who finds solace and escape from the cruel reality in words written upon pages. Through her eyes we see more discrimination and injustice the Cel empire inflicts through its colonization process. But we also find more of the dark shores here. The world of DARK SHORES expands more in this sequel, taking us to Derin and Mudamora and many more places we did not see in DARK SHORES. Plus, zombies!!! Magic!!! Political intrigues!!! And I can’t wait for Lydia and Killian to meet Teriana and Marcus in book 3. Wonder what the author has in store for these four.

Thank you, Tor Teen and NetGalley, as well as FFBC Tours, for providing me with an eARC of this fantastic sequel and letting me be a part of its blog tour.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Book Depository | Kobo | Google Books

About the author:

Danielle L. Jensen is the USA Today bestselling author of The Malediction Trilogy (Angry Robot), the Dark Shores series (Tor Teen), and The Bridge Kingdom series (Audible Originals). She lives in Calgary, Alberta with her family.

GoodReads | Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest

TOUR SCHEDULE:

Official Tour Schedule

May 5th

The Unofficial Addiction Book Fan Club – Welcome Post

May 6th

L.M. Durand – Review + Instagram

Willow Writes And Reads – Review + Playlist + Instagram

Bout-a-Book blog – Review

Confessions of a YA Reader – Promotional Post + Instagram

May 7th

My Bookish Escapades – Review + Favourite Quotes + Instagram

Discover Elysian – Review + Playlist

Emelie’s Books – Review

Wishful Endings – Promotional Post + Instagram

May 8th

Moonlight Rendezvous – Review + Favourite Quotes

Books Over Everything – Review + Instagram

Indie and Diverse – Review + Playlist + Favourite Quotes + Instagram

booksandstrokes – Review + Instagram

Grownup Fangirl – Promotional Post + Instagram

May 9th

TheGeekishBrunette – Review + Instagram

Nomadic Worlds – Review + Instagram

Queen of Books – Review

Kait Plus Books – Promotional Post

May 10th

Bookishly Nerdy – Review

Shelf-Rated – Review

A Logophile’s Love – Review

Indelible Ink Inscribes – Review + Instagram

Bookish Looks – Promotional Post

May 11th

Library of a Book Witch – Review + Instagram

Lost in Storyland – Review

Book Rambler – Review + Instagram

Jenerally Reading – Review + Favourite Quotes

Fazila Reads – Promotional Post + Instagram

GIVEAWAY:

Prize: Win (1) of (4) copies of DARK SKIES by Danielle L. Jensen (US Only)
Starts: May 5th 2020
Ends: May 19th 2020

Enter the giveaway

My Review of GIRL SERPENT THORN by Melissa Bashardoust

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Persian folklores and fairy tales are a rare feat in young adult fantasy. Melissa Bashardoust, author of GIRLS MADE OF SNOW AND GLASS, has rectified that lacking, gifting us with a book unlike any other recent releases. Featuring a bisexual protagonist whose poisonous touches can kill, Ms. Bashardoust has introduced YA fantasy readers to Persian and Zoroastrian myths such as the fiery Simorgh, sly minded yatu or sorcerers, and bloodthirsty and violent divs or demons. Incorporating old and middle Persian words, we’re whisked into the world of the luxurious Golvahar. Within it is trapped shahzadeh Soraya, a princess cursed since birth of a touch so poisonous, one touch is all it takes to drain the life out of a mere beetle. Hence she is hidden away from public view, shunned by her family while her twin brother shines on as the new young shah of Atashar. Stricken with bitterness and loneliness, jealousy and longing, she soon finds herself drawn to an enigmatic new addition to the royal guard, as well as the shrewd div imprisoned in the dungeon who may or may not know the secret to cure Soraya of her poisonous touches.

The prologue is a marvel in itself. Usually notorious among readers and writers alike, however, Melissa Bashardoust knows what she’s doing as she spins a fairy tale prologue that’ll pull you in like bedtime stories and will leave you wanting for more. Her writing, lyrical and poetic, emanates an ethereal feel, without smothering the voice of the protagonist. Standalones aren’t much of a rage in YA fantasy, but some recent releases will beg to differ. Through GIRL SERPENT THORN, readers will find themselves eager for more YA standalone fantasies.

If I am being cruel, she decided, then it’s because he taught me how.

Reading the GoodReads synopsis might make readers mistake it for a villain origin story. But Bashardoust, though entertains the idea inside Soraya’s mind, skirts past it. The readers will find rather a girl, neglected and shunned by family, finding family of her own while being accepting back among her blood relations. They’ll find a girl rising above the sinister possibility of turning dark, like a phoenix soaring above and retaining her morality and conscience. Soraya, in the end, comes out victorious.

I’d 100% recommend the book to all. The eerie similarities between Soraya and the villain. The soft moments between herself and her potential love interest. The moment she ascends far above what could be her downfall and establishes the example to her kingdom that, poisonous to the touch she may be, but beneath her thorny exterior lies a heart that longs to be loved and give love, a conscience that cares for her family and her people equally. This is a story of a girl coming out of her gilded cage and learning how to fly.

Thank you, NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for providing me with an eARC for my honest review.

Blog Tour: MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I got two words to sum up this book.
M.F.
Macabre.
Feverish.

That’s right. The entire book was macabre in content and a fever dream in mood. As if I had leaped into someone’s fever dreams. Only one other book has ever made me feel like reading a fever dream.

But…

(And that is gonna be a big but)

No book has ever gave me shivers down my spine or made me skittish in real life. I was 4-5 chapters away from finishing it when I went to change my daytime clothes into nighttime ones. I dared not turn off the light I was that creeped out. This book is so atmospheric and sinister and creepy. Many contents here are not for the faint hearted. It’ll churn your stomach and make you take breaks every time a chapter ends. It’s that intense and macabre. Some of the contents are so grotesque and pervasive, even my stomach that does not get uncomfortable by mere words, felt a queasy feeling.

So yeah, now that the disclaimers are done, let’s get into the book.

The story begins when 22yo Mexican socialite, Noemí Taboada, gets a letter from her cousin, Catalina, that her husband is poisoning her and vice versa. Noemí’s father soon sends her to Catalina’s in-law’s house in El Triunfo, a small town nobody visits, to find out what’s going on. At the edge of the town is Catalina’s in-law’s house, High Place, shrouded with thick mist, ravines, and a backyard cemetery. Noemí delves into solving the mystery of her sister’s terrible condition, as well as her enigmatic but perverted brother in-law, his equally creepy bedridden father, the meek and shy cousin, and his strict and overbearing mother. Nightmares plague Noemí’s slumber and soon, she starts to wonder if she too is trapped in this house like her cousin, as well as whether she is losing her mind like her cousin is.

It’s one of the most original book in concept, brilliant in its execution, and mind-blowing in the plot twists. They will smack you in the face and you’ll be left reeling in the aftermath. One reviewer from GoodReads even said they had to take a walk for some time before they were able to process this book with a calmer mind.

To be frank, I wanna look at this book and say,

“WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE???”

I’m a writer aside from book blogging. One of my upcoming projects is a book that is also macabre and pervasive in concept. Several people I’ve spoken to said I must be insane to conceptualize such gross book. It did make me falter because so far, I’ve never come across any book on par with mine when it comes to the macabre and dark contents. Books that have made other queasy had made me go “meh, not enough body horror”. Not enough to send me shiver down my spine.

This book, however, did.

I finished it in less than 12 hours. I live tweeted about the book and all the things I loved about it.

Gothic genre? ✔✔
Haunted mansion? ✔✔
Creepy family living in the said haunted mansion? ✔✔
Atmospheric small town? ✔✔
Female protagonist who are beautiful and knows it and is proud of it? ✔✔
Soft, meek, shy boys who need to be protected at all costs? ✔✔

What I did not expect was the secret of the mansion. I did predict some plot twists with success (puffs chest smug smile) but some of the others were too grotesque for my simple, naïve mind to predict. I really wanna be a mentee to this amazing, brilliant, superb, talented author. The way she sets the tone and the mood of the book. You don’t see many action packed scenes for approximately 60% of the book. But the tension is so high and thick you can cut it with a knife. Every single paragraph runs high on tension. Even the two characters who get on the best than any other have tensions galore between them.

“A woman who is not liked is a bitch, and a bitch can hardly do anything: all avenues are closed to her.”

On top of that, the microagressive racism from most of the white characters, especially the brother in-law and his father, just made my blood boil. Top it off with eugenics and the superior inferior race bullshit and I wanted to get violent toward those f***ers. Noemí got a lot more patience than I do. Never have I ever felt so much rage and urge to commit violence to a fictional character before. Well, not many, I’d say. These two made my blood boil. So I guess the author has accomplished making some very hateable antagonists here *thumbs up*.

Overall, this book is a gem. If you’re not faint hearted, if you can stomach gross body horror and mind-boggling mind horror, pick up this book. The cover is stunning. The themes and moods set are superb. The heroine is fantastic, not many pretty heroines who are aware and proud of their good looks, not ashamed and guilty, or needing a man’s validation to acknowledge her beauty. The love interest is so adorable and soft you wanna protect them at all costs. The villains are so nasty you wanna get violent toward them. The story is so engrossing you fly through it as if in jetpacks until you finish it at four in the morning and your eyes are bloodshot.

Thank you, NetGalley and Quercus Books/Jo Fletcher Books for providing me with an eARC for my honest opinion.

Content warning:
Sexual harassment, sexual assaults, attempted rape, blood, graphic body horror, cannibalism, generational incest practice, fungus, death, physical violence, physical abuse, gaslighting, psychological abuse, bullying, misogyny, eugenics, superior inferior race notions, racism, sexism, forced marriage, disease, graphic descriptions of diseases (e.g. pustules, boil, bile), gun violence, mention of suicide, seizure, mass murder, cult rituals, descriptions of childbirth, child death, ableism, toxic masculinity, mentions of mold and rot, totalitarian behavior toward family and staff, regional pandemic.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Indiebound | Indigo | Audible |Walmarts e-books | Book Depository | GoodReads

My Review of MAD, BAD & DANGEROUS TO KNOW by Samira Ahmed

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I finished this book last night.
This morning I went to Google and typed “lost women in history”. Some of the search results were:

“Unsung women emerge from the footnotes of history”

“11 Overlooked Women From History, According To 10 Female Historians”

“WOMEN SCIENTISTS WERE WRITTEN OUT OF HISTORY. IT’S MARGARET ROSSITER’S LIFELONG MISSION TO FIX THAT”

“These 20 women were trailblazing explorers—why did history forget them?”

“Alice Ball and 7 Female Scientists Whose Discoveries Were Credited to Men”

“The Women Who Contributed to Science but Were Buried in Footnotes”

Makes you wonder, huh? Like how did these women were unknown for so long? If their contributions to science and the world are that monumental, how come nobody knew their names until now?

Because history is biased. History is mostly written by white cishet male historians, the majorities.

It’s HIStory, duh!

Thus came the hashtag, #TellHERStory.

That is what this book was about. I’ve never read a story like this before, where a woman was lost in history, a woman who inspired so many well-known figures, well-known male figures in history. Because she was a woman. She was a colored woman. She was a Muslim woman. She was a woman with no noble connections in the society.

Though Leila was fictional, her story is not uncommon. So many women in history were written out or their contributions credited to men who did not deserve them. If you look at the links above, you’ll fine plenty such women overlooked, unsung, forgotten, and thus lost in history. If they were ever included, they were left as footnotes.

Though reading the book’s GoodReads synopsis at first reminded me of the Booker Prize winning novel, POSSESSION by A.S. Byatt, this book has far more depth, honesty, and raw truth. It talks about women lost in history, women who should have been known and celebrated and cherished and studied and immortalized. Instead history is  written by and for and about cishet white men who claim so much credit for so many inventions that aren’t theirs to claim credit for. Such was Leila’s story. Despite her fantastical story inspiring figures like Lord Byron and Eugene Delacroix and Alexandre Dumas, she was just a footnote in their biographies, erased from history as an unknown, nameless woman. Despite her story inspiring Byron to write famous poems such as SHE WALKS IN BEAUTY and THE GIAOUR, inspiring Dumas with his famous novel THE COUNT OF MONRE-CRISTO and Delacroix of his paintings, Leila was just forgotten, her existence erased, her feelings and emotions tossed off. In Lord Byron’s poem THE GIAOUR, she was written off as dead and her lover, the infidel who was the true dead one, was written as living and avenging his “dead lover’s” death heroically. This is how women are written out of their own stories. Because to cishet men, our stories are theirs to pick up or toss aside. They get to decide whether our stories matter or not. And our stories only matter to them if they interest them and can be used to inspire them to create works. That’s it. We’re just minor side characters in their stories while they the heroic protagonists. We never get the center stage. The spotlights never shine upon us. The audience never hear us speak into the mic. That was how Leila’s story was.

This is one thing women can do for one another—amplify the voices of our sisters that were silenced because the world told them their stories didn’t matter.

Until in the 21st century, 17yo Indian-French-American Muslim girl, Khyyam, decides enough is enough. While chasing down a rabbit hole, she finds Leila’s story. And she does not let it get lost into history again. She does not let the two love interests in her life dictate who gets to tell her story. When you love and care about someone, if their cause truly matter to you, you don’t snatch away their mic and kick them aside/off the stage and tell their stories in your own way. You rather make sure they get a stage to speak on, a mic to speak into, and an audience to speak to. You don’t take away their voices. You give them the chance to raise and amplify their voices and be heard, not silenced.

History should not repeat itself, even for those who were written out of history.

Thank you, NetGalley UK and Little, Brown Book Group UK for providing me with a copy for my honest review.

My Review of VANESSA YU’S MAGICAL PARIS TEASHOP by Roselle Lim

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Cover by Vicky Chu

I’ve often heard that sophomore novels are really hard to both write and to impress your readers with. While reading this novel, I did not feel like I’m reading the author’s sophomore novel. She’s impressed me absolutely and after reading NATALIE TAN and now this book, I’m pretty sure I’ll pick up any book by Roselle Lim from now on.

Her books have everything I love to read about:

—Mouthwatering descriptions of food that leave you hungry even if you’ve just eaten

—Prose that’s both lyrical and easy to read, no jargon or purple prose

—Romance full of cute, heartwarming moments with happily ever afters

—Showing us the importance of family

VANESSA YU gave me all of this and more. Unlike NATALIE TAN, it’ll give you higher stakes at work; dazzling explorations of the city of love, Paris; and more tantalizing descriptions of food, not just Chinese food but also French foods and goodies. We also get not one, not two, but THREE subplot romance that’s not the protagonist’s own. To top it all of, I love the auntie brigade Vanessa has. They’re nosy, talking over one another, loves to gossip and argue and haggle, and does not know what privacy means. But they love you and they love you for who you are with all their hearts, no judgments (maybe a pinch of judgement?).

Asian aunties, amirite?

Moodboard by author @rosellewriter herself

Anyway, you’ll find mentions of some familiar characters from NATALIE TAN, including a smoll mention of our favorite cook and restauranteur from San Francisco’s Chinatown.

But the story has now shifted its spotlight on the Yu family, one of them being the famous seer of San Francisco’s Chinatown, Miss Evelyn Yu. The protagonist is Miss Yu’s 27yo niece, Vanessa Yu who lives in Palo Alto with her family and works in the family business. From age three, she’s shown the same clairvoyance as her aunt. But unlike the older woman, she sees her power as a curse, not a gift, after foretelling many deaths and other tragic events. But after her powers inevitably ruins her cousin and best friend’s wedding, she decides that enough is enough. She seeks help from her aunt, who is moving to Paris to open her teashop. Vanessa thus moves to Paris with her for a two week holiday, hoping to bring her errant power under control.

Unlike NATALIE TAN, which was mostly about a mother-daughter estranged relationship, VANESSA YU is about taking control of your own destiny while predicting others’. While NATALIE TAN was about mending broken relationship between three generations, VANESSA YU is about fate vs free will. Romance is much more central here than NATALIE TAN, so is the prospect of soulmates and making a stand against a fate Fate herself has decreed against you. Vanessa’s resilience against the rules against her, as well as her persistence in the face of adversities really impress me. I really love one certain decision she makes despite knowing the tragic outcome it bears, just to stay true to herself and her beliefs. Her honesty and refusal to abide by the rules that means no chance for a family of your own are endearing. Author Roselle Lim has really upped her game when it comes to her characters here and I can’t wait to see more from her.

Thank you, NetGalley and Berkeley Publishing for providing me with an eARC for my honest opinion.