Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Title: Girls of Paper and Fire
Author: Natasha Ngan
Publisher: Jimmy Paterson Books
Publication date: November 6, 2018
Pages: 336
Source/format: ARC//Emma from Miss Print

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It's the highest honor they could hope for...and the most cruel.

But this year, there's a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she's made of fire.

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it's Lei they're after--the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king's interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king's consort. But Lei isn't content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable--she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she's willing to go for justice and revenge.

TW: violence and sexual abuse.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Chosen to be the ninth Paper Girl to serve the Demon Bull King of Ikhara, Lei wants to keep Baba and Tien safe. While questioning her own identity, Lei learns more about what what happened to her mother and she develops feelings for someone at the Court. However, she must be careful of her actions since it will lead herself to be killed and/or her family will be endangered.

Natasha Ngan weaves Asian elements within an engaging fantasy.  Ngan's world building is impressive. The map provided in the front of the novel is very helpful to picture the many areas of The Hidden Palace. Humans and demons make up Ikhara with the demon Moon caste at the top, the hybrid Steel caste in the middle and the human Paper caste at the bottom. Ngan was inspired to create these casts due to her mixed ethnicity. She wanted to write a novel that incorporated different cultures.

The forbidden love between Lei and another female is a secret that only the couple and the reader knows about. If their relationship is known to others at the palace, their lives will be at stake since Paper Girls are concubines who only to serve the Demon King. Friendships are made at the palace and each girl has her own unique personality and is set apart from each other. Usually with so many characters in a book, it's very hard to keep up with who is who but Ngan mastered incorporating an abundance of characters but making sure each person is memorable.

Lei's fiery and confident personality is engulfing. With her golden eyes, she is a ravishing beautiful young lady as she is smart. She advocates for what is right. Lei grows from when she steps foot into the palace to the end of the book. She tries to appease others at first but soon realizes that she cannot deny that fact things are not okay. Lei gains the courage to stand up to the Demon King and to say no to his advances. Although she is heavily punished for her actions, she inspires others to take a stand to say no to things they are being forced to do. Instead of normalizing the dominating and sexual advances, Lei single action shows how people can be strong and to say no. There is much power in saying no.

Girls of Paper and Fire is a mesmerizing novel that will sweep you off your feet. The novel is the first in a series. Warning: there are instances of oppressive violence, death, and sexual abuse that may be triggers for some readers.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

Title: What If It's Us
Author: Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication date: October 9, 2018
Pages: 448
Source/format: e-ARC//Publisher

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Arthur Seuss is interning at a law office in NYC for the summer. Originally from Milton, GA, he is already having a difficult time adjusting to his new surroundings. He misses his home, his friends, his car and even Waffle House. He still keeps in contact with his best friends Ethan and Jessie and he cannot wait to go home until he meets Ben at the post office.

Ben Alejo is recovering from a breakup and intended to mail Hudson's belongings back. However, instead, he meets Arthur at the post office. A flash mob comes forth and Ben leaves the post office with the breakup box still in hand. He has nothing to do but hop on a train to visit his best friend Dylan. However, Ben left behind a shipping label that acts like Cinderella's glass slipper. Arthur is determined to find Ben in the populous Big Apple.

What If It's Us is written by the dynamic duo Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. With their style of writing merging together, What If It's Us is a book that opens new doors. From it's pop culture references to humorous situations like being caught in a flash mob wedding proposal to the fate being on their side, Albertalli and Silvera know how to write a book to induce major feels. Also, not only is the writing fantastic and there is great character development, but the diversity within the novel is perfect. From religion to ethnicity to identity to ability, this novel covers a lot of bases without feeling forced; it's natural. It represents life in modern day.

Within the novel, fans of Albertalli and Silvera can tell right from the get go who wrote each character. Arthur's and Ben's voices are distinguishable from one another and they have their own personalities. We have musical loving Arthur who has dreams of going to Yale. And then we have Ben who is currently writing a fantasy novel, currently in summer school and he is trying to get over his breakup with his ex-boyfriend. The concept of the plot is a subtle but genius one. It just works so well.

What If It's Us is apologetically honest. The characters can be blunt but they channel their true feelings and thoughts to the readers. Readers can connect with what the characters are going through. Nothing is sugarcoated. Everything is real and raw. Albertalli and Silvera have a way of connecting with their audience where the readers understand the characters in their books. I highly suggest readers of YA contemporary to read this book! If you want to read an uplighting, cute novel with a dash of humor, definitely check out What If It's Us.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Novel Notes: What I Have Been Up To

So many might have noticed that I haven't been super active on twitter and on my blog. Let's say I have been pretty busy with life. One major life changing thing is that I will be getting married in a couple of weeks so a lot of my free time as been spent on planning and organizing everything for the wedding. However, it doesn't mean that I am not making time for reading and blogging. I am still finding time to read but I am reading at a more slower pace this year than previous years. I am still attending book events but I am being more selective about what book events I am attending. I am blogging only when I want to blog and I do not want to make it a forced activity just to keep up with numbers. That is not my intention at all. Blogging is avenue to escape the real world for a bit just like how reading is.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make it to Boston Teen Author Festival this year and I will not be able to partake in a lot of the events on the day of the Boston Book Festival. On the same day of the Boston Book Festival, my sister and I are seeing Hamilton! I was lucky enough to snag a pair of tickets for decent seats on a weekend. Because Hamilton is Boston this fall, we had to try to be in the room where it happens and I can't wait to see Hamilton next weekend!

Lately I have been reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness because I want to try to re-read All Souls trilogy before jumping into Time's Convert. I also have a few other books on my TBR list that I hope to read this month. Because it's October, I want to read some atmospheric novels. Speaking of October, I am so excited about this month because October screams fall! The air gets crisper, the leaves change color and it's the start of the holidays. October is my favorite month but my favorite time of year is definitely September to December.

I love all the festivities during this time of year from apple picking to baking pies to celebrating holidays with family and friends. When it starts getting colder, out comes the out hot chocolate. Right now, I have been enjoying some pumpkin spice lattes and cold apple cider. Soon I will be starting with the baking. My specialty is baking snickerdoodle cookies. It's the one recipe that I perfected and it took me years to perfect it. It's my go to for parties and I love gifting tins of snickerdoodles to people during the holidays.

Some book events that I am looking forward to include the following:

☆ Wednesday, October 10th with Claire Legrand talking about Sawkill Girls at Trident Booksellers and CafĂ©.

☆ Wednesday, November 7th with Julie C. Dao talking about Kingdom of a Blazing Phoenix at Brookline Booksmith

☆ Wednesday, December 19th with Cassandra Clare talking about Queen of Air and Darkness at the Coolidge Corner Theatre

What are some things you are looking forward to this fall? What book events are you planning to attend in the next few months?