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/ 

REVIEW: The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi

THE SILVERED SERPENTS by the INCREDIBLE ROSHANI CHOKSHI.

DISCLAIMER: I received an e-ARC from Netgalley. This did not influence my opinion of the book in any way.

DISCLAIMER #2: I also received a free copy from Wednesday Books as well as a finished softcover of The Gilded Wolves. This did not influence my opinion of the book in any way.

SPOILERS: will CLEARLY BE MARKED AT THE END!!!!!!!!!

THANK YOU TO ROSHANI CHOKSHI because she literally made my 2020. I am not joking. This sequel blew me away and I will be waiting for Book 3. First of all, the plot is so tightly written that there are no plot holes, which is great! There is a lot more action compared to TGW, which I really enjoyed. I LOVE SEEING THAT IN A SEQUEL!!! The world is already set up, and I’ve read TGW multiple times, so I remember what happened.

I was slightly worried that the romance between the main cast would take over the book, however, this is not the case in the slightest. The romantic moments are sweet, heartbreaking, and at times, wow. Roshani, just let them be together. *sobs over blank and blank* Roshani excels at writing slow burn romances and ones that I actually care about.

As for the characters? I will say that a certain someone got on my nerves. I am still reeling from redacted’s actions and have not recovered. Enrique, my favorite, is still my favorite and he’s a historian awkward nerd bookworm like me, so I would love him even if his characterization was different. Zofia surprised me because she got a lot more page time in this one, and I love her because she’s so much more relevant than redacted. And LAILA!!!! Wow. I love her as well. Also Hypnos.

The villains? Honestly, I read this ARC in July in less than two hours, so I don’t really remember. I do remember that I felt very surprised where Roshani took the story, in a good way! I forgot the history of the Order, so I will definitely be looking for that during my re-read.

The worldbuilding just gets better. There is a lot more in Serpents than Wolves, which I again loved so much. I want to see more forging in Book 3. However, I read this two months ago, and I paid more attention to the plot and characters, so I don’t have many thoughts right now on this part of the book.

Overall, this is my favorite sequel of 2020 and will likely be in my top 5 if not top 10 books of 2020. Roshani solidifies herself as an age category bending author because this book gets pretty dark towards the end. I would love to see Roshani write an adult fantasy or adult romance in the future because she is definitely capable of it (I’d go as far to say that this series grows with the readers: I was a freshman when I first read TGW and I am now a junior, and I can say that reading this almost two years ago would have been pretty intense in terms of the action). Also, the setting is freaking gorgeous. This is a perfect book in terms of craft and how it made me feel and actually, everything about it is perfect. Highly recommend.

SPOILER SECTION: turn back now if you have NOT READ SERPENTS!!!!!!! TURN BACK!!!! YOU DO NOT WANT TO GET SPOILED!!!!!!!!

Seriously, go away and read it if you haven’t then you can read this section.

If you’re still here, get ready to be spoiled!

I am so mad at Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. WHAT THE —-!!! I swear that that ending and cliffhanger is the BEST. It’s better than the one in Mark of Athena, which I didn’t have to wait for HOH to release because the whole series had already released. BUT THIS? 2021?!!!!! Roshani, please take your time because I would wait five years for the last book. I need time to feel the things Serpents made me feel.

THE ROMANCE? Laila oh my gosh!!!!!!!!!!! Why do I suddenly ship her and Enrique or her and Zofia? COme on, does anyone see it? Just me? Also Enrique!!!! He needs to live. Hypnos? needs friends!!!!!! needs a good romance with someone who will also be there for him.

Yeah. I will never be over the perfection that is The Silvered Serpents. Roshani Chokshi, you are the best author and I am just so amazed that this book can impact me months later even though I forgot most of the plot.

WHAT DID YOU THINK?

Mini Life Update + Five 2020 Favorite Books (So Far)

I can’t believe the first week of school is almost over. For virtual learning, my week went pretty well. I wish we were back in the class because I like being in the room for class discussioons vs. just seeing everyone’s face. My favorite class is probably going to be AP Psychology because I am completely new to this subject. I also found a new way to help myself since I’ll be staring at the computer for a little over six hours some days: find new songs to listen to and close my eyes for 10 minutes OR read for 10 minutes while listening to the Merlin OST.

Let’s get to the fun part of this post: five books that I’ve loved so far in 2020 that were also published this year.

  1. IRON HEART by NINA VARELA – an excellent finale that had me mentally sobbing on the floor. I am so in love with this duology, and it really is the perfect conclusion. Crier and Ayla work so well together, and so do all of the other relationships. Additionally, this duology has two of my all time favorite covers. There are so many tiny details that I only caught when I looked at the cover a bit more closely. Definitely thinking of writing a fanfic for Crier and Ayla.

  2. NOW THAT I’VE FOUND YOU by KRISTINA FOREST – I ended my summer with a few books, and this is the one of two that I am still thinking about. I preordered this in July and got it the day after release day, which was awesome. Evie and Milo make the cutest team, and I loved that this book was a mystery while also being a light-hearted romantic ya novel. I Wanna Be Where You Are is also amazing, and I am going to try to re-read it before the end of this year.

  3. WHERE DREAMS DESCEND by Janella Angeles – Wednesday Books sent me a free copy along with a few other cool items because I am a part of Shealea @ Shut Up Shealea’s Asian Bookish Creators Directory. This was probably the best moment of a very uneventful but also challenging summer mentally because it’s the first time I’ve received something like this. I highly recommend WDD because Kallia is amazing and fierce. I also love Demarco.

  4. THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS by Chloe Gong – I AM SO READY FOR THIS BOOK TO COME OUT!! I have something very exciting related to TVD that will be revealed towards the end of October/the beginning of November. DM me @solaceinreading_ if you want to know my fanpage username because this series is going to change the game, and I don’t say that about a lot of books. Juliette is another fierce character who I’d pay to teach me how to throw knives.

  5. INCENDIARY by Zoraida Córdova – I would love to see more people reading this: revolution, magic, sneaking into a palace, royalty with a secret, a very motivated main character who I love: these are all elements of an enticing and magical read. I love the fact that this book deals with courtly intrigue and what it’s like to be a part of the rebellion at the same time in an organic way. Renata is just trying to figure things out, and she is confident and ready to burn down the world for [redacted] or maybe [redacted] by the end of the book. I am so excited for the second book and will be waiting in a state of anticipation until it comes out!!!

I hope you’ll pick up these books because they are seriously amazing. Now That I’ve Found You is one the #1 best ya contemporary romance novels I’ve read this year because I love celebrity romances in YA, and the incorporation of the mystery is seamless.

The YA fantasy genre revived itself because of these authors (and many authors who I’d add to this list, and that would make this post over 5k words long. I will aspire to write a post that long if I can). Thanks to all of these authors because re-reading your books are going to help me get through this school year: I feel as though I can truly escape my everyday life with your words, and I appreciate all that you do.

Character Analyzation #1: Rin from The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang cover! Love this edition.

Repost because I re-started my blog! The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang is one of my favorite fantasy novels and series of all time. The worldbuilding and plot are amazingly done, and the characters are well fleshed out, ruthless, killers. I spent a good half hour writing this, so that was a lot of fun. This character analyzation of Rin from TPW and The Dragon Republic will include massive spoilers for both books. Please do not read on if you have not read both books. Turn back now. Also, TW for mentions of: genocide, death, murder, torture, abusive people, and violence.

Ok. At the beginning of TPW, Rin is just trying to get out of her province and away from the abusive people who take care of her. I loved how Rin dedicated herself to her studies in the beginning. From the very start, we see a girl (she is 16 at the beginning) who is willing to do anything to achieve her ends. And I mean a n y t h i n g. She uses hot wax to keep herself awake and stays up for hours and days to memorize what she needs to know to for the test she needs to get into Sinegard Academy, the empire’s top military academy.

And she is the only student from her province accepted because she scores the highest. As someone who is super dedicated to school, I loved seeing a smart character who was very motivated (especially a brown skinned, Asian coded character). Once Rin gets to Sinegard, she is intimidated by how all of the other students seem better than her. However, she quickly gets over this. I mean, this girl decides to get rid of her uterus in order to stay focused on her studies. I’ve seen reviews saying this is anti-feminist. However, I see this action as more related to how someone will survive in a ruthless world. After all, we see that Rin was the top scorer in her province, so it makes sense that she would take this action. Additionally, Rin is one of three girls at Sinegard, and I see this as an advantage for Rin (as someone who gets a period, I know that they are VERY painful and bothersome).

As we progress throughout Part 1, Rin continually rises to the top at Sinegard. At the beginning, I found Rin easy to root for since she, well, hadn’t used a god to commit genocide against an entire country (although her thought process behind this is SUPER nuanced, and something I will be writing about as we go through this). She is smart, willing to do whatever it takes, and uses the library. The inner nerd in me (Perhaps I shall do an analyzation of Kitay next?) felt so happy about this.

I know anyone reading this has read the first two books, so I am going to gloss over some stuff and get straight to three points: Rin’s battle with Nezha is one of her turning points into ruthless goddess (yes, she is a goddess. Or at least I hope she will be on in The Burning God.). She finds out she is one of the last surviving Speerlies, from Speer, which was destroyed by a genocide led by the Federation of Mugen. This motivated the Republic of Hesperia to act with the Trifecta. (Also: Hesperia is a clear allegory for the U.S. colonizing/getting involved in war at the last minute.) Rin is connected with the Phoenix, which I found represents renewel, ressurection, and victory (TBG theory: Rin will be reborn and we will think that she is dead OR she will make a sacrifice play to save Kitay or Venka.). Rin develops these powers to connect with the gods, but her mentor does not want her to use her massive powers, which could destroy the world.

Anyway, Rin graduates from Sinegard and the third Poppy War begins. She uses her powers against a general who won’t die, and also sees her mentor fall. This is another turning point for Rin because while she couldn’t control her power, she knew for certain she wanted this Mugenese general to die and suffer. Rin gets sent to work with the Cike in a coastal city, which is led by Altan, a survivor of the Speerly genocide, and the only other Speerly left. Let me tell you: Altan was so unexpected to me because I expected him to be this boring commander who thought he knew everything, like most of the characters who might be like him. What I got was someone very different. Rin’s relationship with Altan seemed like her first true connection/maybe friendship of TPW. They both survived the destruction of their people, but ended up in very different places. Both of them are ruthless, however, there is a moment in Part 2 where I knew Rin had turned to a dark and brutal killer: when they saw the destruction of Golyn Niis. Seeing all of that destruction after hearing about what happened to her people changed the Rin on page one to someone as dedicated to someone still dedicated, but also a brutal person who you should avoid. Additionally, Venka’s talk with Rin after was so brutal to read, and I cannot imagine what Rin was thinking about the Mugenese in that moment except for the fact that she wanted to destroy all of them.

Also, Altan dies. So here’s Rin, all alone, after being tortured, in a cold ocean, swimming to Speer to destroy the Mugenese with the Phoenix god. I mean, the amount that Rin changed makes sense to me! Here is someone who knows genocide destroyed her people, saw ruthless acts in school, saw Nezha die, saw the complete destruction and murder of Golyn Niis, got captured and tortured (and saw Altan tortured), and saw Altan die. No one person could handle all of that, and that is why Rin’s actions make sense (although it is a war crime. So please keep that in mind). She uses the Phoenix god and has the Phoenix commit genocide on her behalf against the Mugenese. This completes Rin’s dark descent.

Next, we go into TDR. The pace of this book was a lot slower but with some action, which I liked. I found that there were less vivid descriptions (but still take heed if you read this!!). Anyway, Rin is living with the aftermath of her choice, but it seems like she is ignoring it. Which again makes total sense!! She knows genocide happened to her people, she knows the horrors of war, and yet she did the same thing! I can’t argue whether or not she was in a position to use a god to cause a genocide in a second because it makes sense that Rin wanted revenge. She wanted revenge for all of her people who died in the genocide against the Speerlies. I understand her actions, but still condone them.

So Rin is ignoring her choice and feels horrible in about the first 50 pages of TDR. However, Nezha and Kitay come back, and it seems like she’s still angry but is controlling it to kill the empress. The empress does not die and Rin kills Feylen. The two biggest moments of this book are 1. Nezha’s betrayal, and 2. Rin saying she is the most powerful force on the planet.

How do these events/words impact Rin’s characterization? Well. Rin obviously hated Nezha in school, and then he came back, and then they worked together, and then he LITERALLY stabs her in the back! I mean. Rin has a right to be angry. I am! I hate character betrayals, and that is why I hate Nezha and don’t ship him and Rin. Rin is a strong goddess all on her own, and it’s amazing how quickly she turned on Nezha, although, once again, this makes sense because she’s chosen to work with the bloodthirsty Phoenix god. This goes into reason number 2.

Rin knows that she is powerful, she wants bloodshed, and she wants the South to war against the Dragon Warlord (who wants democracy. That’s probably not going to happen in TBG). This is probably the hugest moment other than the genocide at the end of TPW because now Rin has completed? maybe? her ARC from angry peasant to angry, bloodthirsty goddess. Once again, this makes perfect sense: add up the events of book one, take the bloodshed and betrayal of book 2, everything Rin has seen/heard about her people, the Speerlies, and you get a very brutal person you do not want to cross.

Overall, this analyzation is meant to make me think about Rin more. Rin is sooo complicated, and is one of the best hero-villain combos. You are not meant to root for her actions, but I think you are meant to feel some sympathy for someone who’s been through a lot as a younger person. While she makes all of the choices, I feel like her circumstances and choices put her in a position where she was tired of being stepped on. This isn’t mean to excuse her actions, and that is why Rin is one of the most compelling characters to read about. We know she isn’t the villain, yet she’s commited really appalling actions. “Power is getting to higher places than those who’ve stepped on you.” This quote fits with Rin 1000000%! What do I think will happen to her in The Burning God? Stay tuned for my TBG top 5 theories post next week. I do feel like it’s a bit synopsis heavy, so any advice is appreciated for my next character analysis: comment if you want Nezha or Kitay.

Do you agree? What do you think will happen in TBG? Do you want more of these?

Whimsical Wrap-Ups #1: August 2020

My favorite book of August that I own.

Everyone, I am just trying to come up with a cute name for this series of posts that will talk about my end of the month accomplishments/goals. Whimsical and Solace are words that go together-ish, right? Also, I coded part of this and now I get why the block editor is challenging.

Wikathon

I only finished two books: The Girl From the Well and Where Dreams Descend (WDD wasn’t even on my TBR). Both were amazing! However, I was doing so well with this readathon and then I got sidetracked by social media and now I am upset. On a more positive note, I am still going to finish PSON, WAYW, and TGW because they are some of my favorite books of all time

Books I Need to Finish in September

There are too many. Here’s a list:

  1. A Blade So Black – Since June
  2. Aru Shah and the End of Time – Since June
  3. Crier’s War – Since June
  4. Descendant of the Crane – Since June
  5. Patron Saints of Nothing – Since July
  6. The Gilded Wolves
  7. Hungry Hearts
  8. Night of the Dragon
  9. White Fox
  10. Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From
  11. White Fox
  12. Iron Heart – started in August
  13. The Damned
  14. A Torch Against the Night
  15. Goddess in the Machine
  16. The Best Laid Plans
  17. The Dragon Republic
  18. From Twinkle, With Love
  19. Late to the Party
  20. There’s Something About Sweetie
  21. We Are Not Free
  22. The Poppy War
  23. Only Mostly Devastated
  24. Now That I’ve Found You

  25. Yeah, obviously this massive TBR is stressing me out. I need to finish We Are Not Free, Iron Heart, and White Fox for sure because two of those are for book tours and I am part of the Faring Society. For some reason, I can’t focus these days, but at least I have my September TBR already set. A lot of books on this TBR are re-reads and I’m at least halfway through at least a third of these books.

    In August, I read 20 books! It would have been a lot more, but I read some really good ones that put me into a reading slump, such as:
    These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong is still in my mind. (Humble-ish brag: I got an e-ARC from Netgalley even before it was available because I e-mailed the publisher. It was my first time, and I got one of the best YA books of 2020.)
    The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang changed my life and also she’s amazing! I heard Kuang speak at her TPW recap and now she is the #1 author I want to see in person.
    Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles made me feel so seen!! I finally have a fantasy character who I can cosplay as. I loved all of the descriptions and characters, and I hope Angeles will take the worldbuilding farther in book 2 because the map was an amazing surprise.

    September Goals

    1. Finish my TBR from other months: do not start any other books. See, I felt so stressed this morning because I have a lot of books I need to finish.
    2. Post at least 2-3 times/week on the blog. School starts in one week and one day, so I will definitely not be commenting and posting as much. Some of my posts will be short updates/mini reviews/lists of what I am reading.
    3. Relax and feel calm about taking time for myself. This school year will be challenging, but I am going to be off social media a lot more since I need to focus and get my work done.

    August evaluation

    I’d say this month was pretty good! My dual enrollment class is going very well and I am going to be a teacher’s assistant (TA) for one of my favorite teachers from last year. I got my first package from a publisher for Where Dreams Descend because of Shealea’s Asian Bloggers Directory!!! I also got a finished copy of We Are Not Free for the book tour by Colored Pages Tours, which is so cool (it comes out tomorrow).

    Mentally, it could’ve been better. I deleted Twitter, so that really helped me. I only want to focus on my bookstagram and blog, but mostly my bookstagram because it really is my first joy. I joined the book community to share pretty pictures of books, and now some people say they’ve read books because of me, which is so kind.

    How was your August? What were your favorite books?

Where Dreams Descend? More like Where the Best Book of 2020 Descends. Review for WDD by Janella Angeles.

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happy book birthday to the incredible @janella_angeles ! here i am as Kallia! Janella, she means so much to me. especially as a Filipino American girl who didn’t see people who looked like her in fantasy novels until Rin Chupeco’s Wicked As You Wish, which came out just this March! i hope i’ve done Kallia justice and to continue improving my cosplays and edits. i am about a third through WDD and know that it’s going to be a #1 book of 2020 for me! i love Kallia and her strength. (as well as Demarco ☺️) listen. somehow the best photo is of me mid blink. i have so much respect for cosplayers and once i did this, i have 200% more. you have to get dressed, find a good place, take the photo, take more, edit the photos, crop, edit more, then add to instagram, add a caption, and hope people like it. i tried adding a filter but swipe to see the original picture and tell me if you like it better!!! huge thank you to @shutupshealea for her Asian Bookish Creators Directory. without you, i never would’ve gotten connected with @wednesdaybooks and @lifeinfiction to receive this AMAZING book. the package came with some other amazing items that will def be in my other instagram photos of this book. all of you made my week. #wheredreamsdescend #wednesdaybooks #janellaangeles #book #Bookstagram #YABooks #kingdomofcards #kingdomofcardsbook1 #WDD #wednesdaydesign #kalliacosplay #Kallia #KalliaWDD #KalliaxDemarco #DemarcoxKallia

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Me as Kallia! I am a modern day version of her. Clothes are from Forever 21 2019 winter season, I forget where the boots are from, and you can’t see but I am wearing Fenty Beauty lip gloss (highly recommend).

Everyone, I have just read one of my #1 books of 2020 (I refuse to pick favorites because guess what? I’ve given up on choosing just ONE favorite because I don’t need to.). The other best books are: The Silvered Serpents, These Violent Delights, The Archer at Dawn, Incendiary, and A Song of Wraiths and Ruin. Side note: I could go on but then this would just be a best books of January to August 2020 list. I also haven’t read Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest yet and it’s just sitting at the bookstore WAITING FOR ME. So I need to wait before adding more books to my list of faves.

Listen: I am improving my review skills BUT I want to do something fun: an interview with and by myself. So: here is an interview with me, Isabella, from me, Isabella, about Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles: NO SPOILERS.

Me: Why did you want to read this? Naysayers might say it’s a knockoff Caraval.
Me: Who would say that? If so, you’re probably one of those who compares The Gilded Wolves to Six of Crows: WDD and Caraval are NOTHING ALIKE!!!! I’d say WDD is better because 1. It’s more interesting, and 2. Basically EVERYTHING.

Me: Ok but why? What made you continue reading?
Me: The cover, the plot description, the fact that this was in a book box, the fact that so many people I trust loved it! It starts off slow but builds to a crescendo that was so unexpected and incredibly well-done. In spite of the fact that I would rather have good worldbuilding and characters OR good worldbuilding and plot, this was an excellent combo of a plot and character driven story.

Me: So who was your favorite character?
Me:
Kallia. Absolutely. She is the protagonist of WDD, and is super ambitious. You know how there are those stereotypical “brooding bad boys” in YA? Or those girls like Aelin who want power but are just horrible people, so their thirst for power doesn’t read well? Kallia was a power-hungry, take no prisoners, brooding, secretive, angry, soft, and all around amazing heroine. She fights for herself in a world of sexism and in a world that is dominated by male magicians. However, Kallia also makes friends: I loved her friendship with Canary and with Aaros because she wasn’t using them. Kallia is a leader, but also knows that she doesn’t have to compete with the girls around her.

I’d also say that Aaros reminds me a bit of Kitay from The Poppy War. They have very different personalities, but both are there for their power-hungry friends no matter what, which I love! More friendships between girls and boys in YA are so needed.

And Canary! I would read a story with her POV for sure. I wish she played a bit of a bigger role instead of Jack, because the fact that she is in the Conquering Circus is so amazing and a lot cooler than Jack.

Demarco. Damn. It’s very rare for a love interest to captivate me since so many YA love interests are so alike (looking at Cardan, Rhysand, Rowan, Cal, Mal). Demarco was so sweet while also maintaining a hint of mystery around him (in a non-creepy way). It never felt like there was a power imbalance between him and Kallia.

Finally, Jack. Wow. This story’s villain wasn’t a person, more like sexism and girls being blamed for no reason. However, Jack was a super interesting character who I would also love to see more of. How did he get to Hellfire House?

Me: What did you think of the plot? Did the romance take over the story?
Me:
The plot was more character driven while also incorporating action at the right moments. Janella balanced her intense descriptions with action and snappy dialogue. However, Kallia’s thirst for power never felt overdone or out of place. After all, it’s Kallia who saw the world and said no thank you, while also maintaining a sharp and intriguing personality.

This book is like stepping into a fancy restaurant dressed up to eat fancy foods and to also have a bit of fun with a mysterious stranger. The descriptions of Kallia’s dresses, how Demarco sees her (wink wink), and the atmosphere all fit so well together. I just felt so empowered by how Kallia went after what she wanted while also being vulnerable at times.

The romance. Again, the fact that the LI asks for consent? One of the many reasons why I love Demarco. In fact, asking explicitly for consent? Hell yes.

Me: What do you want to see in the next book (no spoilers)?
Me:
Janella Angeles could go A LOT darker. I would say that this book is definitely not juvenile, but with that ending, Angeles has the skills to try to write more intenesly. I would also like to see more worldbuilding because again, Angeles has the skills. This book is a freaking debut and it really does not read like one. Angeles put so much into this book, and to see her take some risks to make the sequel straddle the line between YA and Adult fantasy would be amazing to see (however, the romance is so perfectly written. I wouldn’t change anything.). A darker sequel would just be so cool. I mean, come on. Kallia has powers and I want to see her fight someone with them.

Me: Songs you’d use to describe this book?
Me: Wow. Obviously anything Janella has said. For me personally? Fire on Fire, Surrender, The Man, Castle, Look What You Made Me Do, Movements by Pham, Bad B*tch, Hotter Than Hell, The Chain, Love to Hate It, Whatever It Takes, The Greatest, Nightmare, Monsters, Wicked Game, and You Should See Me In A Crown. All of these describe Kallia, and some describe Kallia and Demarco’s relationship.

Well, me, how do you feel?

I feel shocked. Kallia could rule my life. She is the embodiment of who I want to be: confident, stands up for herself, and doesn’t care what others think of her. Janella Angeles is a voice in YA who needs to be read. I look forward to Kingdom of Cards Book 2, and I hope anyone reading this will pick up Where Dreams Descend. If you like strong girls, intense magic, girls who hunger for power, girls who dominate, and a book that flips the roles of girls and boys in a romance, then this is the book for you. (Also, Kallia looks like me, so that’s cool! I guess I also added this to my Wikathon TBR because I read it in a little over a day.)

The Burning God by R.F. Kuang: Theories

I am officially a super fan of TPW trilogy. Massive spoilers in this post! Turn back if you haven’t read The Dragon Republic. Here are my theories of what will happen in TBG: TPW #3, in no particular order:

  1. Rin and Nezha will die fighting each other. While I don’t want Rin to lose a fight because she beat Nezha in book one, I can see Kuang making her characters go through something even bigger and deadlier than before. How will this fight start? Either Rin wants to die OR someone has betrayed her again and she will do anything, even sacrificing herself, to help her army win. Nezha will probably want to kill Rin because maybe she’s killed his dad, or maybe she razed his province. Either way, if this happens, it’ll be interesting to see how Kuang holds Rin accountable for the genocide she used a god for in TPW.
  2. Rin will use the Phoenix god to commit another genocide against Nezha’s province. While this might not happen if Kuang has Rin and Nezha forgive each other/confess love (which I really hope does not happen), I feel like it would be a turning moment that would cause #1 if Rin does this after the war between Nezha’s faction and her faction ends. This might also lead to. . .
  3. Rin being exiled. If this happens, I will genuinely be infuriated. To see such a powerful character silently leave probably won’t happen, but it is up to Kuang and Kuang only. This seems very unlikely since Rin is too angry to let this happen, and because this world is too brutal to allow someone who caused a genocide to live, which leads to two choices. . .
  4. Rin becomes a goddess of death or something like that. Again, not a choice I like because it gives Rin a way out to not atone for her war crimes, however, maybe she will have to do something like what she did at the end of TPW again, like I wrote in #2. I think this would leave too many loose threads. . .so here’s option #2:
  5. Rin dies, but not in battle. Yeah, this seems unlikely to me since Rin would fight the death god before dying anyway, so yeah. Also, Rin needs to atone for her actions (although one can definitely see WHY she made that choice in TPW. That doesn’t make it right, though. It’s so hard to root for Rin and root against her because she has so much agency and uses it for horrid things).
  6. Kitay dies, leading Rin to theories #1, 2, or 4. I don’t want this to happen? I feel like Kitay has changed a lot too, but he is very intelligent and I like how his smarts are needed. This could happen if. . .
  7. Rin accidentally kills him, leading to theories 1, 2, or 4 again.
  8. OR he dies in battle, leading to theories 1, 2, or 4 again.
  9. There will be a lot of battle/strategizing scenes. Oof, I kind of hope this is balanced with Rin and the Phoenix god scenes if so because we left TDR with Rin saying that “I am the most powerful.” So this leads to. . .
  10. Rin merging with the Phoenix forever. Again, another way for her to avoid her war crimes, which I don’t like, unless. . .
  11. Rin merges with the Phoenix and this is when she battles Nezha and his god that he’s merged with closer to the end of the book. Again, this could be a variation of #1.
  12. Venka becomes the next ruler. I don’t see her as wanting to lead, but if #1 happened, who on Rin’s side would take over? I think Venka or Kitay. I want to see more of Venka in TBG for sure, though.
  13. The other country, Hesperia, will be a third major player in the war between Rin and Nezha’s side. I can see this happening, but I would rather focus on Rin and Nezha, since they are the two biggest players on the board right now, besides the Empress, which leads me to. . .
  14. the Hesperians are with Nezha, which I forgot until now. Also, there was someone named Vaisra (the Dragon Warlord! ahah!). So Vaisra has Nezha working for him, as well as the Hesperians. This looks really bad for Rin, but you have to consider. . .
  15. Rin using the power of the Southern people. Now this will happen for sure, and I think Rin will do anything to get people on board to help fight Nezha and his father, Vaisra. However, maybe Rin will run out of people to use, leading to: #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, and 12.

Overall, I have a small idea, but it’s mainly based on the synopsis of The Burning God. I know that the ending will be some kind of tragic ending, or if we do follow that Rin=Mao, then she will die of old age. This makes sense seeing as Rin will probably lead millions more to their deaths, and will have to atone for it. Do I think she has to? No. It may seem like it my theories, but that is because I think Rin could go full-on brutal and merge with the Phoenix, which is my only theory besides #15, 13, and 2 that I am at least 75% certain about.

What do you think will happen in The Burning God? Do you agree with any of my theories?