Caffeine Book Tours Review: Spell Starter by Elsie Chapman

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“For a second, hope runs wild. Huge. I feel nothing else.” #SpellStarterTour for @elsiechapman ‘s Spell Starter. Every single line of this book made me want to keep reading. Aza Wu’s journey is astounding, and as soon as I reached the last page of the book, I knew that I wanted to read it again. There is magic in everything Elsie Chapman writes, and Spell Starter is up there as one of my favorite sequels of 2020. I will remember those last lines forever (no spoilers though for those who haven’t read it). In fact, I would for sure read a sequel to this book and also loved where Elsie Chapman ended the story. From Aza’s relationship with Nima to her relationship with Saint Willow to her relationship with her family, I was absolutely captivated. I loved the fact that I loved reading about. Finally, Elsie Chapman is an amazing human. She’s commented and liked my posts when I’ve tagged her in the past and I so appreciate it. It’s nice when authors see their fans, so after reading this, please read her short story in her Hungry Hearts anthology that she helped edit and participated in. It’s my favorite anthology of all time. My full review will be up in less than a day. Thank you to the amazing @caffeinetours for running such an inspiring and professional tour. I am in awe of everything you do. Once again, thank you for the ARC. I am honored every single time to be one of your tour hosts, and hope to do every book justice with what I post. Caffeine Tours is the best tour company I’ve worked with, and I’m not just saying that because @shutupshealea and I follow each other: it’s because I see the work Shealea puts into everything she does. She always puts 100% effort into everything and all that I know from the book community comes from her insights and wisdom and overall, she is one of my role models and inspirations. #SpellStarter #ElsieChapman #Bookstagram #2020Books #FaveBooks #Read #YABooks

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MY SPELL STARTER INSTAGRAM POST

Hello, everyone! I am so excited to be a part of the Spell Starter Tour for Elsie Chapman. Chapman is one of my favorite authors ever since I read her short story in the Hungry Hearts anthology (which she helped edit) and the first novel of her duology, Caster.

This year, I actually haven’t read many sequels. Some were pushed back and I’d started a lot of series last year because I read a lot of books. I had to prioritize which series/duologies/trilogies I would continue. At the top of my TBR? Spell Starter by Elsie Chapman. SPOILER FREE; SPOILERS FROM CASTER.

REVIEW

Let me just say that every single sentence in this book is captivating. I’m re-reading it right now and decided to annotate this time because I have a physical ARC (thank you, Shealea and Caffeine Tours!!!), and I already have so many pages marked despite being only a fifth of the way in.

First of all, I love seeing Aza’s point of view. While she’s been able to gain her magic back, the reader can see that she is still uncertain about who she is. She’s pulled into a situation she does not want to be in with Saint Willow.

Aza’s relationship with Saint Willow really captivated me. You can clearly see that Aza is afraid but also wants to exert some sort of control over situation, and recognizes Saint Willow for who she really is. Instead of joining magical fights on her own, Aza is forced into them because of Saint Willow. This power imbalance is striking to me, and the entire time I felt the same negative emotions Aza felt around Saint Willow.

Sometimes, sequels end up focusing on romance or a slow build up to a strong finish. Spell Starter is not like that at all: The writing in Spell Starter is strong the entire way through. I can honestly say that the ending of this book has me wanting to write fanfiction about [redacted] and [redacted] because the world Chapman creates feels so real. The atmosphere of Spell Starter pulls you in, and made me forget about my own life while reading. And that’s what my favorite books do: they make me feel a little less alone and more like I am walking or running on a journey with these characters.

Finally, as a teen girl myself, I relate to the fact that Aza so strongly wants control over her own life and powers. The outside world loves telling us what to do, how to act, and where we should go. However, this book made me think about how while it’s important to not walk alone, it’s also important to realize what we are truly capable of ourselves, and that in the end, our choices need to be our own.

BOOK INFORMATION

Title: Spell Starter
Author: Elsie Chapman
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication date: 06 October 2020
Age group: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy

Synopsis:

The Sting meets Fight Club in this magical, action-packed sequel to Caster by Elsie Chapman.

Yes, Aza Wu now has magic back. But like all things in her life, it has come at a great cost. After the tournament, Aza is able to pay off her parents’ debt to Saint Willow. Unfortunately, the cost of the gathering spell she used to strip Finch of his magic has put her permanently in the employ of the gang leader. Aza has been doing little errands using real magic — collecting debts, putting the squeeze on new businesses in the district. But that had never been the plan. Saint Willow is nothing if not ambitious and having Aza as a fighter is much more lucrative than as a fixer. Especially if she can control the outcome. Aza is going to have to put it all on the line again to get out of this situation!

BOOK LINKS

Amazon — https://amzn.to/31ioSK6  
B&N — https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/spell-starter-elsie-chapman/1135037083?ean=9781338589511 
Book Depository — https://www.bookdepository.com/Spell-Starter-Caster-Novel-Elsie-Chapman/9781338589511 
IndieBound — https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781338589511 
Goodreads — https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/49090458-spell-starter 

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Bio:
Elsie Chapman grew up in Prince George, Canada, and has a degree in English literature from the University of British Columbia. She is the author of the YA novels Dualed, Divided, Along the Indigo, and Caster as well as the middle-grade novel All the Ways Home, and the coeditor of A Thousand Beginnings and Endings and Hungry Hearts. She currently lives in Tokyo, Japan, with her family.

AUTHOR LINKS:

Author website — https://elsiechapman.com/ 
Goodreads — https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5441417.Elsie_Chapman 
Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/elsiechapman/ 

Iron Heart by Nina Varela: Caffeine Book Tours

This post plus this blog post took 2+ hours! It’s the most I have ever worked on a book tour. Goes to show that this is an amazing book.

DISCLAIMER: I RECEIVED A FREE ARC AS A PART OF THIS TOUR FOR THIS TOUR. THANK YOU CAFFEINE BOOK TOURS. THIS DID NOT INFLUENCE MY OPINION OF THIS BOOK. NO SPOILERS FOR IRON HEART IN THE REVIEW SECTION. SPOILERS FOR CRIER’S WAR.

Book Information

Title: Iron Heart
Author: Nina Varela
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication date: 08 September 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Synopsis:

An unstoppable love between two girls—one human, one Made—both set on destroying the Iron Heart.

For too long the cruel, beautiful Automae have lorded over the kingdom of Rabu, oppressing the humans who live there. But the human revolution is on the rise, and at its heart is Ayla. Once handmaiden, now fugitive, Ayla escaped the palace of Lady Crier, the girl Ayla had planned to kill . . . but instead fell in love with. Now Ayla has pledged her allegiance to Queen Junn, whom she believes can accomplish the ultimate goal of the human rebellion: destroy the Iron Heart. Without it, the Automae will be weakened to the point of extinction.

But playing at Ayla’s memory are the powerful feelings she developed for Crier. And unbeknownst to her, Crier has also fled the palace, taking up among travelling rebels, determined to find and protect Ayla.

As their paths collide, neither are prepared for the dark secret underlying the Iron Heart.

In this stunning sequel to acclaimed author Nina Varela’s Crier’s War, the love that launched a revolution must now pave the way for a whole new era . . . and the ultimate change of heart.

Review

Oh my gosh. I just finished this book yesterday, so everything is fresh in my mind. I do not have the words for this. Here is my review of Iron Heart by Nina Varela:

Crier’s War is by far one of the best debut YA novels of 2020. I fell in love with fantasy that focuses on royals again because of how amazing Varela is at writing: the worldbuilding, plot, and characters were so captivating. Now that is a trio. Master those three elements, and I am sure to love your book.

At the end of Crier’s War, Crier and Ayla were separated (crying face). Ayla and Benjy were going to Varn and Crier was planning to take down Kinok. I absolutely LOVE where Iron Heart starts off because it really feels like a natural flow from the end of Crier’s War to the beginning of Iron Heart. I knew Iron Heart was off to a great start.

And oh my gosh. Iron Heart is amazing from beginning to end. I felt the full range of emotions while reading this beautiful and perfect sequel. First of all, the world seems massively larger in this one because of the new locations we see and the new characters we meet. I LOVE travel in fantasy books because in the case of Iron Heart, I felt like I was actually traveling along with the characters. Furthermore, Varela is amazing at writing descriptions because, again, I feel like I am able to escape into every facet of this world, including the Queendom of Varn, and into the history of the world with the tidbits of history sprinkled throughout the book in between the chapters.

As for the plot, WOW. I love the fact that Iron Heart was faster paced because Crier’s War set up Iron Heart perfectly to do this. Crier’s War drew you slowly into a beautiful but deadly world by introducing the characters and the politics of the world, and Iron Heart takes you farther into how complex this world is with a plot that will have you gasping for breath (yeah. I felt very emotional when reading this book because I would scroll through the pages on my computer and felt so captivate. I finished this book in one sitting). Varela balances the political intrigue and action so well. The duality of Crier’s War and Iron Heart is what makes them work so well together: they complement each other.

Finally, the characters. Omg. I really wanted the best for Crier and Ayla and rooted for them the entire time. I love the fact that their personalities work so well together, and it feels like you are right beside them as they go on their journies throughout Iron Heart. I could read a book about them doing anything and be in love with them. Additionally, the sibling and friendship relationships!! Varela writes such beautiful relationships that made me realize that you should tell the people you love that you love them (yes, I am so soft over this duology).

All three of these elements work so well to create a stunning finale that will leave you on the floor as a pining and yearning mess.

Thinking Creatively

Books I Think Crier and Ayla Would Read.

I had so much fun making this photo! The stars represent Crier and Ayla’s star-crossed romance in Crier’s War, and the roses represent, well, romance! Once I get a copy of Iron Heart, I am taking so many pictures with it.

This feature is to take what I saw in Iron Heart and apply it further. There are so many books that I think Crier and Ayla would read based on [redacted] which happnes [redacted]. (If you’ve read the book, you know which part I am thinking of.) I chose these books for: their top tier world building and political intrigue.

  1. The Girls of Paper and Fire trilogy: I mean. The worldbuilding in the Crier’s War duology and the Girls of Paper and Fire trilogy? Amazing. I could live in these worlds forever, and they are vastly different fantasy worlds with unique plots and characters. Who do I think would read this? I think both Crier and Ayla. These are worlds where girls learn and advocate for themselves and each other. I feel like Ayla wouldn’t be afraid to yell at some of the character’s choices in Girls of Storm and Shadow, while Crier would smile softly at her. At the end, they would both comfort each other, and then read. . .
  2. The Never Tilting World duology: HELLO CRIER AND ODESSA BONDING? LAN AND AYLA BONDING? HELLO THE FOUR OF THEM? Wow, I need to write this fanfic. Crier and Ayla would 100% read The Never Tilting World and then develop a way for them to meet Odessa and Lan. Crier and Ayla would surely read this together, and I think they would definitely read it in one sitting. While Crier and Odessa are both princesses, they are quite different characters with different motivations, and I think their friendship would be amazing. They could discuss how it’s different/similar being a goddess who is also a princess and an Automa, who is also a princess. Meanwhile, Lan and Ayla would bond over how much they like to learn about the history of their worlds.

One of my goals is to write a fully fleshed out fanfiction where Crier, Ayla, Lan, and Odessa meet at some point in this tour to flesh out this idea a bit more. I had so much fun thinking about how I could take Iron Heart and think about it even more because this duology is going to stick with me for the rest of my life.

Nina Varela’s Biography:

Nina Varela is a nationally awarded writer of screenplays, short fiction, poetry, and novels. In May 2017, she graduated magna cum laude from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts with a BFA in Writing for Screen & Television. Crier’s War was her debut, and this is the sequel. She is originally from Durham, North Carolina, where she grew up on a hippie commune in the middle of the woods. She now lives in Los Angeles.

Author Links

Book

Thank you so much for reading! Here is the link to the tour schedule: https://caffeinebooktours.wordpress.com/2020/07/31/iron-heart-tour/. I hope you will follow along with the other tour hosts because this is my favorite tour I’ve been on.

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee: Colored Pages Blog Tour

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee: cover.

Disclaimer: I was sent a free copy as a part of this tour. This did not impact my opinion, review, or anything else in any way. SPOILER FREE!

Title: We Are Not Free
Author: Traci Chee
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: September 1, 2020
Genres: Historical YA Fiction 

Synopsis

All around me, my friends are talking, joking, laughing. Outside is the camp, the barbed wire, the guard towers, the city, the country that hates us. 

We are not free. 

But we are not alone.”  

From New York Times best-selling and acclaimed author Traci Chee comes We Are Not Free, the collective account of a tight-knit group of young Nisei,  second-generation Japanese American citizens, whose lives are irrevocably changed by the mass U.S. incarcerations of World War II. 

Fourteen teens who have grown up together in Japantown, San Francisco. 

Fourteen teens who form a community and a family, as interconnected as they are conflicted. 

Fourteen teens whose lives are turned upside down when over 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry are removed from their homes and forced into desolate incarceration camps. 

In a world that seems determined to hate them, these young Nisei must rally together as racism and injustice threaten to pull them apart.

Review

I went into this book with very little knowledge of what happened to Japanese people in the U.S. during WWII. I read a book for younger kids of a child at an incarceration camp about ten years ago, but as I read We Are Not Free, I soon realized that that other book was only one story about how people of Japanese ancestry were impacted by being forced into incarceration camps for years.

We Are Not Free details the lives of fourteen teens in these incarceration camps. What Traci Chee does with these fourteen POVs is amazing. All fourteen captivated me, and made me realize that there is a lot more to this time period in U.S. History than what I’ve been taught in schools. Yes, all fourteen of these teenagers are second-generation Japanese American citizens, and they all have different personalities and voices that are real. Because this is a real event in history.

The main themes I loved were hope and friendship. Chee allows her characters to be vulnerable and writes the human connection that really draws the reader into the story. This is a book that focuses on how friendships can be formed anywhere, and these teens did not have to be strong all the time. Hope can coexist with pain.

One storyline that I had no idea about before reading this book was that Japanese teens in these incaraceration camps were drafted into the U.S. military. Reading this storyline really impacted me, as did the entire book. I do want to talk about the author’s note as well: I hope every reader reads all the way through because Traci Chee dedicated a lot to this book. I also love the fact that Chee included a “Further Reading” and “Image Credits” section.

Overall, this book needs to be read. As someone who is going through high school in the U.S., this is a book I want to see in my classes for history and reading because to be perfectly honest, a lot of Asian American history is ignored, and it is disappointing that the incarceration of people of Japanese ancestry during WWII isn’t talked about more (at least in the school that I am at). I will 100% be advocating for Traci Chee’s book to become a part of my school’s curriculum because there is more to U.S. History than we’ve been taught.

Book Recs Based on We Are Not Free

  1. The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee: This is one of my favorite books of 2019. Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid during the day and is an advice columnist by night. Jo is a Chinese American girl who lives in Atlanta around the year of 1890. Highly recommend. I am very pleased to see more books about Asian Americans in history.
  2. Butterfly Yellow by Thanhhà Lại: This book is about Hằng and her search for her brother, Linh. “In the final days of Việt Nam War,” Hằng and Linh go to the airport. Linh is taken to the U.S., and Hằng arrives in the U.S after him. Six years later, Hằng and Linh reunite. Butterfly Yellow is about family and friendships, and how your feelings matter.
  3. Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee: I read this in 2016 as part of a Battle of the Books reading list, and it is one of my all time favorite historical novels. Mercy Wong is a Chinese girl who lives in San Francisco in 1906 in Chinatown, and is a motivated 15 year old. When an earthquake uproots her life and school, Mercy wonders what she can do to help. Just thinking about this book makes me want to re-read it.

I chose these three books because in the U.S, the history of Asians living in the U.S. needs to be taught more. These books, along with We Are Not Free, are helping grow the number of books about this subject. Asians have been in the U.S. for a long time, and this history needs to be learned. It is important to note that all of these books tell very different stories. There are so many parts of the history of Asians in the U.S., and this is vital to keep in mind.

Links to Buy:

Author:

Traci Chee is the New York Times best-selling author of The Reader trilogy. She studied literature and creative writing at UC Santa Cruz and earned a master of arts degree from San Francisco State University. She is Japanese American and was inspired to write We Are Not Free by her family’s experience during World War II. Some of the events she includes in the book are loosely inspired by their stories. She loves books, poetry and paper crafts, as well as bonsai gardening and games. She lives in California.

Author Links

Website: http://www.tracichee.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6567825.Traci_Chee 
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tracicheeauthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/tracichee
Tumblr: https://tracichee.tumblr.com/ 

Tour Schedule

August 30th

Book Rambler – Welcome post & interview
Mellas Musings – Favorite quotes 
Debjani’s Thoughts – Review Only 
Sophie Schmidt – Review in Gifts

August 31st

The Reading Fairy – Review Only
Her Book Thoughts – Favorite Quotes
What Irin Reads – Review Only

September 01st

Sometimes Leelynn Reads – Author Interview 
The Confessions Of A Music And Book Addict – Review Only 
Emelie’s Books – Mood Board
Too Much Miya – Fanart /Art related to the story

September 2nd

Yna the Mood Reader – Favorite Quotes
The Writer’s Alley – Review Only
Marshmallow Pudding – Favorite Quotes

September 3rd

Div Reads – Reading vlog
Clairefy – Review Only 
Know Your Books – Favorite Quotes 

September 04th

READING (AS)(I)AN (AM)ERICA – Book Recommendations Based on Book 
Per_fictionist – Favorite Quotes
Mamata – Review Only

September 05th

Wilder Girl Reads – Review Only 
Solace in Reading – Book Recommendations Based on Books 
A Fangirl’s Haven – Review Only