I cannot believe the end of summer 2021 is here! I hit 100 books and as of today (8/29/2021), I have read 112 books so far this year. I only read four books in August, but that’s because I was in. . .Santa Monica and Los Angeles.
I was cleared to go on the trip (I’d been sick the days before we left), so my experience was not the best because I was still sick when we got back home. Luckily, I am better today. There are so many amazing bookstores in LA:
The Ripped Bodice
Barnes and Noble at the Grove (I do love a good Barnes and Noble.)
BookMonster – Santa Monica
Wings of Ebony – got a signed copy!!
Raybearer – paperback and it’s so shiny!
How We Fall Apart – my name is in the acknowledgements, or rather, SolaceinReading is!
When I came home, I also found an early finished copy of A Clash of Steel by C.B. Lee waiting for me (for Colored Pages Tours – my post will be up on Friday, September 10) AND an ARC of The Bronzed Beasts by Roshani Chokshi!!! TBB is so good, it made me cry.
I’m mostly looking forward to September – I have been sick for a while and now know what it is, so that is so great.
Fall is my favorite. . .
The leaves! The chill in the air, that sense of a light rain, my birthday, family birthdays, Halloween, school. . .I am going to be a senior but fall just makes me feel so calm. I want to make a most anticipated releases post but don’t have the energy right now.
Let me start by saying I have not been on a book tour in almost a year. I was too busy. However, I knew I wanted to talk about Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao because you will not find a fantasy book that comes close to the sheer amount that the book made me want to throw it across the room (in a good way). Thanks to Caffiene Tours and Shealea @shutupshealea for hosting this tour. I am so grateful for Shealea and this tour company for being transparent and always being clear in their policies. I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book from the publisher and Caffeine Book Tours as part of my participation in their tour.
Characters – I could literally scream. I loved every character. Zhao could write whole books about the side characters, which is incredible. (Sorry that my thoughts are so messy, I just cannot recommend this book enough!!!!)
Romance – yes!!! No love triangle!! There is a polyamorous relationship and the characters fit so well together. Their chemistry is amazing!!!!
Worldbuilding – I was too focused on the perfect plot and characters, BUT the worldbuilding pulled me in and did not me go – I finished IW on my phone at Target!!!!
Plot – AMAZING. This book reads like the perfect action movie with romance. I would pay to see IW adapted.
Re-readability – YES 100%!!!!!! The entire book is so action filled and perfectly balanced with all the elements I just told you my thoughts about. You will not read a book like this in 2021. Iron Widow is life-changing, especially for me as an Asian women, and it’s great to see sexism and the patriarchy called out and challenged in a fantasy novel.
Favorite Quotes – names have been redacted
Here are my favorite quotes and some quote graphics for the quotes from Iron Widow. They are from the e-ARC so I will update this review when I read a final copy. Quotes may have changed from the e-ARC to the final version. NO SPOILERS NO SPOILERS NO SPOILERS.
“Blood dribbles from the table and from [redacted’s] fingers. A sheen of sweat glistens where his head wrapping meets his forehead. His chest heaves rapidly. His eyes meet mine.“
“When he looks me in the eye again, a small smile cracks across his face. A startling sensation shivers through me, like a hundred butterflies fluttering free in my chest.”
“Everyone wants me dead.”
“You’re not something I could ever come across again.”“Oh, shit.” My voice teeters toward an edge, high-pitched and airy.
Then again, I don’t belong to anybody, and I never will.
“No matter what anyone says, I’m proud to call you my co-pilot, [redacted].”
“I think this whole concept of women being docile and obedient is nothing but wishful thinking. Or why would you put so much effort into lying to us? Into crippling our bodies? Into coercing us with made-up morals you claim are sacred? You insecure men, you’re afraid. You can force us into compliance, but, deep down, you know you can’t force us to truly love and respect you.” Read this again then re-read it 1000000000000 times.
Tour Info – support everyone on this amazing tour!
Xiran Jay Zhao is a first-gen immigrant from small-town China who was raised by the Internet. A recent graduate of Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University, they wrote science fiction and fantasy while they probably should have been studying more about biochemical pathways. You can find them on Twitter for memes, Instagram for cosplays and fancy outfits, and YouTube for long videos about Chinese history and culture. Iron Widow is their first novel.
The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.
When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.
To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.
POC (East Asian)
LGBTQ+ (Bisexuality, polyamory)
Trigger and Content Warnings
Violence and abuse, footbinding, suicide ideation, discussion and references to sexual assault (though no on-page depictions), alcohol addiction, and torture
I loved Reaper of Souls by Rena Barron! It’s an excellent sequel to Rena Barron’s first book in this trilogy, Kingdom of Souls. Reaper of Souls picks up right where Kingdom of Souls left off.
SPOILERS FOR KINGDOM OF SOULS:
When we last left Arrah and Rudjek, they defeated Efiya and now their main concern is the Demon King. However, a new player has emerged, and her name is Dimma. Throughout Reaper of Souls (no major spoilers), we find out more about Dimma and the Demon King. What I love about Barron’s writing is that each perspective feels different. Sometimes, authors can struggle with writing from multiple perspectives that are all in first person, but Dimma, Arrah and Rudjek all sound very distinctive.
I also hear a lot that second books are sometimes not as good as the first, but this is not true for Reaper of Souls. Now, Arrah and Rudjek still have to confront the reach of the demons while also healing from the horrific events of KOS. Rudjek now has anti-magic, while Arrah has her magic from all of the tribes to help her try to locate any tribal survivors. Both are separated on different journeys, and Barron is able to make their journeys entwine even when they’re away from each other.
Overall, this sequel is amazing and I will be waiting in anticipation for the final book of this expansive and captivating fantasy trilogy.
Wow. I don’t think I’ve been as immersed in or as satisfied by a fantasy book as I was by She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan. It’s so easy to get into Zhu’s head and to understand what Zhu is thinking – in fact, while I usually tend to focus on how fast the plot is, this time, the part of the book that made me feel engaged was Zhu. NOTE: There will be spoiler-y quotes after the review, so if you don’t want to accidentally see any spoilers JUST read the review. I will mark the quotes section in bold. Also, quotes ARE TAKEN FROM THE ARC – I will edit this when I read a finished copy. The fact that I received a copy from the publisher and Netgalley did not influence my review.
Zhu, who is genderqueer, takes the place of Zhu’s dead brother. Zhu takes no prisoners, and really sets out to conquer the destiny that was originally meant for Chongba. I love seeing main characters who aren’t afraid to take what they desire/their destiny, and Parker-Chan really made me feel like I was able to see all of Zhu’s actions.
Obviously, the world building is fantastic – I love the fantasy elements as well as the fact that most of the violence takes place off page. I felt like SWBTS focused more on the political intrigue, which I always enjoy. Additionally, Zhu’s development from child to adult felt very well paced – I never felt like I was being rushed in the story to get to the next moment.
I do have to admit that I think some of the plot went over my head just because it’s summer, so my mind is pretty much devoted to my summer program right now, so I will definitely have to re-read SWBTS and will edit this review again at some point. Just know that as someone who’s just starting to get into adult fantasy (I think I’ve only read three: The Stars are Legion, The Poppy War trilogy, and The Wolf of Oren-Yaro), this book continues my streak of books that I could read over and over again. Overall, She Who Became the Sun is a beautiful and powerful story that I fell in love with, and I hope you all read it!
SPOILERS: Favorite quotes section
You may have ended this, but you haven’t ended me, she thought fiercely at him, and felt the truth of it shining inside her so brightly that it seemed capable of igniting anything it touched. Nobody will ever end me. I’ll be so great that no one will be able to touch me, or come near me, for fear of becoming nothing.
The eunuch showed no sign of having felt any of her thoughts. He turned his back on the monks and passed through the doors, the ceaseless flow of his incoming soldiers parting around him like a stream around a rock.
He said to them, “Burn it to the ground.”
““I suppose you’ll have little enough chance, whatever I do,” Chen mused. “But I find myself moved to improve your odds. I’ve instructed Commander Wu to give you five hundred men before your departure. How many will you have then, seven hundred or so?” His laugh was like a slab of meat hitting the butcher’s block. “Seven hundred men against a city! I wouldn’t try it myself. But let me do what I can for you afterward: if you do manage to win Lu, I’ll convince the Prime Minister to let you keep whatever you’ve taken from it. Then you’ll have enough funds for your new temple.” His black eyes glittered. “Or for whatever else you’d like to do.””
“All that means is we have to make this life count.” He stared at her. She saw the moment the relief kindled in him, of having found her again to follow. The shadows on his face were already breaking apart. Through the cracks she saw the boy in him again. He said, wonderingly, “Who did you become, when we were apart?” She smiled. “The person I was always supposed to be.”
“Zhu felt a stab of uncharacteristic pity. Not-wanting is a desire too; it yields suffering just as much as wanting.”
“After a long pause Ma said, low, “I cherish you.” Zhu smiled at her. “I don’t even know who I am. General Ouyang killed Zhu Chongba, but I’m not the person I was born as, either. How can you know who you’re cherishing?” Rain drummed on the thatched roof. The mushroom smell of wet straw pressed around them with the intimacy of another’s warm body under the blankets. “I might not know your name,” Ma said, taking Zhu’s hand. “But I know who you are.”
“You never realized that it wasn’t your name they were going to call, exhorting you to reign for ten thousand years.” As the Prime Minister fell facedown in the dirt, she said, “It was mine.”
“She didn’t just want greatness. She wanted the world. The breath she took felt like joy. Smiling with the thrill of it, she said, “I’m going to be the Emperor.”
No matter what, I think fantasy will always be my favorite genre. One book that I anticipated for a while, even before the cover was revealed, was Sisters of the Snake, an Indian inspired fantasy where the main characters switch places. I was very grateful to be on the street team for SOTS and was on #TeamRani (Rani is the princess). Sisters of the Snake is written by Sarena and Sasha Nanua, and the tagline is: “A lost princess. A desperate switch. A destiny that will shake the world.” Here is my review for SOTS:
DISCLAIMER: I was not influenced by being on the street team and by winning a copy of the book.
Right from the start, I instantly knew I would enjoy both Ria and Rani’s points of views. Both girls are trapped, but in different ways: Ria is forced to be a soldier and Rani is forced to follow her mother and father’s every command. When both are together, it’s great to see their dynamic – it feels very natural.
I liked Rani a bit more because rich princess and palaces!!!! I love that. I also thought the world building was esay to understand/fall into – the writing style of Sarena and Sasha is a good balance of descriptive, emotional, and action. Fantasy books can sometimes be hard to get into/the world building is thrown at you all at once, but this is not the case at all with SOTS.
As for the pacing, it was pretty much perfect. I never felt bored or like I was out of the loop. In the sequel, I would like to see more about the magic of the world and the history. Also, Sarena and Sasha should advocate for a map in the next book. I would recommend this for those who want a fantasy book inspired by a non-Western place, twins who don’t know they are twins, and surprising romances.
“For eighteen years, I’ve walked these halls. Cool marble floors, paisley-patterned carpets, and a frosted-glss exterior. Ornate jalis, latticed screens that filter out the hot Abai air.” – Rani, pg 19
Overall, I’m excited for the sequel and recommend this book!
Interestingly, July is going well for me!!! Here’s what’s been going on in my life, including what I’ve read, a peak into my reading journal, and my thoughts as I come up on my third year bookstagram anniversary in December.
I’m a part of a university’s free collegiate scholars program that I’ve been a part of since the summer before my sophomore year and I LOVE my classes this year!! I have four classes and they are all helping me. Two of them are college focused, and one is about the U.S. Census, Identity, and Politics and the other one is about The Politics of Superhero Movies. I don’t know what I’ll write my personal statement about, but I have a few ideas.
I also feel a lot less stressed this summer – I’m hoping to meet up with some of my friends this month and next month, I’m going on a family trip (we are all fully vaccinated) to see colleges in the Western U.S.
I’ve read about 8 books this month.
As for bookstagram, I’m trying not to be on IG as much and I think it’s super beneficial for my mental health. Last July, I posted nearly EVERYDAY. That does not work for me. I’ve also learned not to care as much about what others think (I hope) and I’ve made some really great friends.
I got to go to the library again today (very fortunate to have a great library system in my city) and checked out some books I’m anticipating:
Blood Like Magic by LIselle Sambury – I’ve followed her for a while and can’t wait to read this!!! It is a very long book and I love long fantasy novels. Also, the cover!!! Voya looks amazing.
Renegade Flight by Andrea Tang – I think this is a companion novel to Rebelwing and I remember liking Tang’s writing style and world a lot.
A Universe of Wishes edited by Dhonielle Clayton – love anthologies!!! The cover is so cool and there are many details. I’m most excited for Dhonielle’s, Nic Stone’s, and Anna-Marie McLemore’s stories.
Below is an image of my book tracker in my reading journal:
Bookstagram Anniversary – Less than six months away!
I think I’ll have to save up money to do a fun book haul MAYBE. I’m going to college next year, so I’ll probably limit myself to 3-5 books. I already have the Fairyloot edition of Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong preordered, so that might be my gift to myself, lol!
I don’t know where I would be without bookstagram. When I didn’t have many friends irl, bookstagram was there for me. I’m happy to say I follow a few people’s private IG’s and I hope to meet them irl someday.
What should I do for my third year bookstagram anniversary?
Hello everyone! I am happy to be back (although at the time I’m writing this, I still have two major tests and then I’m done!!). Here’s what I’ve been doing and reading.
I took my AP Lit exam during the second week of May and presented my AP Research project! My project was on Asian American history curriculum in U.S. history classes. If anyone’s interested in seeing my presentation or paper, I’d be happy to share it with you. I’m pretty proud of it considering the fact that I did it all during online school.
I’m also happy because I have a research assistantship this summer! I had one last year as well and I’m excited to put in the work to learn more about what it’s like to have a job. However, I am nervous about starting my college search because I haven’t done that much work yet and only have a vague idea of what type of university I’d like to go to (liberal arts based in a city, near a bookstore, with research opportunities and a well-connected network of alumni so I can get a job after).
I also haven’t seen the majority of my friends in person in over a year, so I really hope I’ll be able to see them in person this summer (still socially distanced). I’m curious to know: would any of you ever want to meet me in person? I’ve always wanted to go to a book convention.
It’s actually going well? Being my junior year, it was challenging, but I feel a lot better about taking time for my mental health now than I did before. My teachers did an excellent job of checking in with us and giving us time off. I got to take two dual enrollment math classes. They were pretty fun! I think I like statistics because it’s a lot different from the math I’ve learned in schools; it’s easy to make connections to the real world.
I’m going to be a part of the ChiTeen Lit Fest, a free festival for teens hosted by my city’s library network!! I’m interviewing Kara Jackson, who is the 2018 Youth Poet Laureate of Chicago and the 2019 National Youth Poet Laureate, along with a partner and I’m super grateful for this opportunity. It takes place from May 16 to May 22, and the interview is at 5:15 p.m. CST on Tuesday, May 18.
I hope any teens reading this will join! I’ve also been reading a lot more lately because I have time. I’ve only bought one book this year, and it’s shifted my mindset around how many books I buy. Not only has the library been a great resource, but also, I’ve been able to devote more time to really enjoying books that I like by reading them slowly. The book I bought is Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart, and I’ve read many positive reviews about it.
I’m also a part of two street teams: the Snake Squad for Sasha and Sarena Nanua’s Sisters of the Snake, coming out on June 15 of this year, and the Sinclair Students for Katie Zhao’s debut young adult novel How We Fall Apart (thanks to Bloomsbury and Katie Zhao for the advanced reader copy). I have some exciting posts that I’m thinking about and hope you all will support these authors.
Finally, my favorite books I’ve read this year out of 35 are Raybearer, Cinderella is Dead, The Ones We’re Meant to Find, Elatsoe, The Infinity Courts, Reaper of Souls, City of the Plague God, The Gilded Ones, Instructions for Dancing, We Free the Stars, The Meet Cute Project, and American Betiya. Some 2021 books I read last year that I recommend are Happily Ever Afters and Wings of Ebony. Reviews of Raybearer, How We Fall Apart, and The Ones We’re Meant to Find, along with more, should be coming this summer, as early as two weeks from now! I’m also planning to write a post for API Heritage Month and a specific post with Filipino authors, because I am Filipino! Thank you for reading!
How are you? What else would you like to see from my blog?
Recently, I’ve realized that there is a cycle that I go through on bookstagram that I think started in March 2020: first, I’ll feel really good about what I’m posting. I’ll feel so inspired. Then, the second part of the cycle is me looking at other people’s posts and comparing myself to them. Finally, I’ll start to worry that what I post is not good enough, and that I’m not being aware enough. This causes me to either 1. want to delete my account, or 2. delete Instagram off my phone. Then, the cycle starts again. How do I break the cycle? Here’s how I think I can:
First of all, the past two days, I’ve deleted Instagram off my phone when I start to do homework until my school day ends. This is really helpful because I’m becoming less attached to my phone in the morning. My eyes feel better and there’s more separation between my life outside my phone.
Second of all, I am someone who tends to overanalyze a lot and therefore, this causes me to think people don’t like me. I know this is a very convoluted way of reasoning. For example, if someone responds to a text with a period in their sentence, I’ve worried that they don’t want to talk to me.
Finally, I realized recently that I just wasn’t liking what I was posting, including what I was posting here on the blog. I didn’t like how I was just trying to maintain a certain aesthetic instead of contributing to educating others, and I repeated some of the same questions that I tried to use to talk to my followers. I think some of these feelings might be from me growing up in a competitive schooling environment where I was always second best from sixth to ninth grade. I get jealous of those who are so amazing at writing reviews, but I must realize that it takes time. I also need to accept that it’s ok to feel sad if I do put a lot of work into something and I get no response. I need to let go of relationships that are one-sided. Furthermore, I actually stopped talking about problematic books a while ago, but now, I feel like I should because white authors are still getting away with a lot. I don’t remember the author’s name, but she was harrassing someone who gave her book 4.5 stars on Goodreads.
Use my platform effectively.
Create work that I’m proud of.
I’ve seen this phrase many times and I did not come up with it: post with intention.
Recognize that I don’t need to post everyday because my main “job” right now is to finish the school year and to continue researching colleges.
Honestly, this goes for ALL parts of my life: recognize that stress is ok.
Overall, I think I do have to accept that analogy that “there will always be a car ahead of of me on the highway.” I feel like, as a high schooler, I’ve gotten caught up in the mindset that I need to have everything in my life figured out in addition to maintaining a certain image, but that’s not what I want this blog and bookstagram to be about. I wouldn’t want to monetize this hobby right now because my main concern is school, although it would be very cool to get paid to promote the books I love. I still get jealous of those bloggers who’ve been around for the past 5-6 years who have really pretty aesthetics and the perfect layout and sound so smart, while I’m over here with incoherant messes of reviews, which makes me think I’m not working hard enough to be taken seriously or for people to want to be friends with me, but I must recognize that comparing myself to others won’t help me make progress in where I want to be.