I am so grateful to be a part of the #MatatagAtMatapangTour for Dauntless by Elisa A. Bonnin, hosted by Kate @ Your Tita Kate (https://yourtitakate.com/blog-tour-dauntless/)! Ever since I got into reading more, I’ve been looking for books by Filipino authors. Now, I’m happy to say that Dauntless will be joining my collection of books by Filipino authors.
Dauntless starts out as an adventure novel. Seri is a valiant, and is a part of a group of warriors that hunt beasts and explore the unknown part of their world. I felt that the story increased in action and my anticipation increased with every (virtual) page I turned. I was excited when Seri met Tsana, a mysterious girl, in a market. By this point, the pacing of Dauntless really drew me in to the story.
One aspect that surprised me was that Tsana narrates some chapters! I love it when the two main characters narrate a novel – I like seeing how they see each other. Both Tsana and Seri challenge each other. Tsana challenges Seri to see the world differently than what Seri thought she knew. Elisa A. Bonnin has done a great job of seamlessly crafting the history of the world into the overarching story, and Seri and Tsana’s romantic relationship. I also liked Eshai and Lavit’s relationship. They had a great dynamic.
As Dauntless progresses, it becomes so much more than an adventure story – it’s a story of the powerful bonds between living beings and how the unknown can be challenging to face at first, but it becomes easier when you have people beside you. The characters battle supposed beasts, the truth, and fight to understand their own paths. This sapphic fantasy novel is one of my favorites of 2022, and I hope there is a sequel; however, the ending makes this a great standalone too!
“Be dauntless, for the hopes of the People rest in you.”
Seri’s world is defined by very clear rules: The beasts prowl the forest paths and hunt the People. The valiant explore the unknown world, kill the beasts, and gain strength from the armor they make from them. As an assistant to Eshai Unbroken, a young valor commander with a near-mythical reputation, Seri has seen first-hand the struggle to keep the beasts at bay and ensure the safety of the spreading trees where the People make their homes. That was how it always had been, and how it always would be. Until the day Seri encounters Tsana.
Tsana is, impossibly, a stranger from the unknown world who can communicate with the beasts – a fact that makes Seri begin to doubt everything she’s ever been taught. As Seri and Tsana grow closer, their worlds begin to collide, with deadly consequences. Somehow, with the world on the brink of war, Seri will have to find a way to make peace.
Elisa A. Bonnin was born and raised in the Philippines, after which she moved to the United States to study chemistry and later oceanography. After completing her doctorate, she moved to Germany to work as a postdoctoral scientist. A lifelong learner, Elisa is always convinced that she should “maybe take a class in something” and as a result, has amassed an eclectic collection of hobbies. But writing will always be her true love. Publishing a book has been her dream since she was eight years old, and she is thrilled to finally be able to share her stories. Dauntless is her first novel.
*I received an e-ARC from Netgalley as a part of the tour. This did not influence my opinion of the book.
I’m so excited that I’m a part of the book tour for Beauty and the Besharam by Lillie Vale. This is a contemporary version of Beauty and the Beast, and so much more. I read it once, and then I immediately read it again. Thanks to Colored Pages Book Tours and Penguin Teen for the finished copy. This did not influence my rating/review of the book.
Beauty and the Besharam is my new favorite contemporary novel. It’s so relatable and yes, there is romance, and I also like how there were other side plots that were well balanced with the narrative. Kavya Joshi, who is Indian American, is at the end of her junior year of high school. All year, she’s been competing with Ian Jun, who is her rival. So, Kavya’s friends decide to try to help end their rivalry by setting up competitions for Kavya and Ian throughout the summer. However, Kavya and Ian start to realize that maybe there’s more to their relationship than just being competitors.
This is a book I wish I’d had when I was starting high school. Kavya is confident and unafraid to speak her mind. She also loves reading (like me), and works as a princess for children’s birthdays during the summer and on weekends. Throughout the book, we see Kavya’s identity as a teenage girl, sister, Indian American, reader, friend – Lillie Vale’s characters jump off the page and truly come to life in what’s an immersive romance AND a coming of age. She doesn’t have to lessen herself to be seen and be loved. I felt very empowered.
I really felt like the romance was organic. When I’m reading a rivals to lovers romance, I’m looking for a romance where both characters respect each other. I also loved that Beauty and the Besharam was set during summertime – seeing Kavya and Ian’s relationship outside of school helped me get to know the characters outside of their school environment. There’s so many fun summer activities in the book: going to the library, going to a riverwalk, canoeing. Kavya and Ian start to understand that there’s more to each other than what they’ve thought of each other in school, and it felt like I was on their journey right alongside them.
Family and Friendships
The frienships in this book!! Yes! I love supportive female friendships! I wish I could be a part of Kavya’s friend group. I also enjoyed Kavya’s relationship with her sister and how they both learned from each other.
This is my new favorite contemporary, YA romance book. I’m going to re-read it again soon because it came out quite close to when my school year ends (and includes empowering characters, messing up, making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes, female friendships, and summertime fun). I highly recommend Beauty and the Besharam!
Book Recommendations based on Beauty and the Besharam
The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala
The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala is an enemies to lovers/rivals to lovers romance set in a world where the gods have disappeared and magic is banned. Esha and Kunal’s competition in a game of outwitting each other and hiding who they truly are reminds me of Kavya and Ian’s competition of learning who they really are.
The Jasmine Project by Meredith Ireland
The Jasmine Project by Meredith Ireland includes a main character who’s romantic life is also being meddled in. In this book, Jasmine’s family (her siblings, cousins, etc.) try to set her up with three boys over the summer after she breaks up with her cheating boyfriend. Another contemporary romance novel I highly recommend!
The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo
The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo stars Clara Shin, a high school junior who has to work at her dad’s food truck with her enemy after Clara’s prank at her dance goes wrong. Both Kavya and Clara are confident and unafraid to be themselves.
Beauty and the Besharam: Synopsis
Heated competition leads to even hotter romance in this YA summer rom-com for fans of Sandhya Menon, Emma Lord, and Wibbroka.
Seventeen-year-old, high-achieving Kavya Joshi has always been told she’s a little too ambitious, a little too mouthy, and overall just a little too much. In one word: besharam.
So, when her nemesis, Ian Jun, witnesses Kavya’s very public breakup with her loser boyfriend on the last day of junior year, she decides to lay low and spend the summer doing what she loves best–working part time playing princess roles for childrens’ birthday parties. But her plan is shot when she’s cast as Ariel instead of her beloved Belle, and learns that Ian will be her Prince Eric for the summer. [Cue the combative banter.]
Exhausted by Kavya and Ian’s years-long feud, their friends hatch a plan to end their rivalry by convincing them to participate in a series of challenges throughout the summer. Kavya is only too eager to finally be declared the winner. But as the competition heats up, so too does the romantic tension, until it escalates from a simmer to a full-on burn.
Lillie Vale is the author of books for both teens and adults, including The Decoy Girlfriend, Beauty and the Besharam, The Shaadi Set-Up, and Small Town Hearts, an American Library Association’s 2020 Rainbow Books List selection. She writes about secrets and yearning, complicated and ambitious girls who know what they want, the places we call home and people we find our way back to, and the magic we make. Born in Mumbai, she grew up in Mississippi, Texas, and North Dakota, and now lives in an Indiana college town. Find her on Twitter @LillieLabyrinth and Instagram @labyrinthspine, or visit her website lillielabyrinth.com.
I’m teaming up with ColoredPages and PenguinTeen to give away 5 (FIVE) finished copies of Beauty and the Besharam by Lillie Vale! Follow the link in the bio to enter this US ONLY giveaway! You must be 18 years or older, or have parental permission to share your address if you win. The giveaway ends on 30th May at 11:59 EST.
I am so sorry that this post is late, first of all! The first month of school was very hectic. Let’s get right to my post for A Clash of Steel by C.B. Lee for Colored Pages Blog Tours.
First of all, Lee’s writing style is so engrossing and makes me feel like I’m instantly drawn into the world of the characters of ACOS. The fact that this series remixes classics, in this case, Treasure Island, makes me very happy as a high school reader who did not enjoy books such as Little Women (also read So Many Beginnings by Bethany C. Morrow!!!!).
Second of all, I love the fact that this book is written in first person POV – Xiang is such an interesting character and I love her POV – seeing how she interacts with her mother, Anh, and her mentor. Even from the first page, I knew that this book would be one of my favorites of the year.
Thirdly, I can confidently say that you do not have to read Treasure Island to understand ACOS – they’re called Remixed Classics for a reason, and Lee definitely smashed my expectations. This series is one to read again and again and again, and I hope any teachers reading this will consider adding this series into their curriculum.
[to be updated – I have to set the table for dinner.]
Title: A Clash of Steel Author: C.B Lee Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Publication Date: September 7th, 2021 Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Two intrepid girls hunt for a legendary treasure on the deadly high seas in this YA remix of the classic adventure novel Treasure Island.
1826. The sun is setting on the golden age of piracy, and the legendary Dragon Fleet, the scourge of the South China Sea, is no more. Its ruthless leader, a woman known only as the Head of the Dragon, is now only a story, like the ones Xiang has grown up with all her life. She desperately wants to prove her worth, especially to her mother, a shrewd businesswoman who never seems to have enough time for Xiang. Her father is also only a story, dead at sea before Xiang was born. Her single memento of him is a pendant she always wears, a simple but plain piece of gold jewelry.
But the pendant’s true nature is revealed when a mysterious girl named Anh steals it, only to return it to Xiang in exchange for her help in decoding the tiny map scroll hidden inside. The revelation that Xiang’s father sailed with the Dragon Fleet and tucked away this secret changes everything. Rumor has it that the legendary Head of the Dragon had one last treasure—the plunder of a thousand ports—that for decades has only been a myth, a fool’s journey.
Xiang is convinced this map could lead to the fabled treasure. Captivated with the thrill of adventure, she joins Anh and her motley crew off in pursuit of the island. But the girls soon find that the sea—and especially those who sail it—are far more dangerous than the legends led them to believe.
CB Lee is a Lambda Literary Award nominated writer of young adult science fiction and fantasy. Her works include the Sidekick Squad series (Duet Books), Ben 10 (Boom!), and All Out Now (HarperTeen). CB loves to write about queer teens, magic, superheroes, and the power of friendship.
Lee’s work has been featured in Teen Vogue, Wired Magazine, and Hypable. Lee’s first novel in the Sidekick Squad series, Not Your Sidekick was a 2017 Lambda Literary Awards Finalist in YA/Children’s Fiction and a 2017 Bisexual Book Awards Finalist in Speculative Fiction. Seven Tears at High Tide was the recipient of a Rainbow Award for Best Bisexual Fantasy Romance and also a finalist for the 2016 Bisexual Book Awards in the YA and Speculative Fiction categories.
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.
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.
Title: Spell Starter Author: Elsie Chapman Publisher: Scholastic Publication date: 06 October 2020 Age group: Young Adult Genre: Fantasy
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!
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.
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.
Title: Iron Heart Author: Nina Varela Publisher: HarperTeen Publication date: 08 September 2020 Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction
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.
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.
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.
The Girls of Paperand 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. . .
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.