Review: Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao

Title: Rent a Boyfriend
Author: Gloria Chao
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: Nov 10, 2020
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Chloe Wang is nervous to introduce her parents to her boyfriend, because the truth is, she hasn’t met him yet either. She hired him from Rent for Your ’Rents, a company specializing in providing fake boyfriends trained to impress even the most traditional Asian parents.

Drew Chan’s passion is art, but after his parents cut him off for dropping out of college to pursue his dreams, he became a Rent for Your ’Rents employee to keep a roof over his head. Luckily, learning protocols like “Type C parents prefer quiet, kind, zero-PDA gestures” comes naturally to him.

When Chloe rents Drew, the mission is simple: convince her parents fake Drew is worthy of their approval so they’ll stop pressuring her to accept a proposal from Hongbo, the wealthiest (and slimiest) young bachelor in their tight-knit Asian American community.

But when Chloe starts to fall for the real Drew—who, unlike his fake persona, is definitely not ’rent-worthy—her carefully curated life begins to unravel. Can she figure out what she wants before she loses everything?

Review:

Rent a Boyfriend was a frustrating, yet fantastically crafted read. I hated Hongbo, and for a minute, I really hated Chloe’s parents. However, being from a Chinese family myself, I know the stress of saving face and being seen as “obedient” so your parents are seen as “good parents” who teach responsibility and meekness. Chinese (and most East Asian) face culture is very toxic and I personally hate it.

ANYWAYS, the book. I totally understood Chloe’s impulse to try to bring home the perfect boyfriend so her parents would stop trying to set her up with Hongbo, a terrible man from a terribly manipulative family. It was so frustrating seeing her parents continuously trying to push Hongbo onto Chloe, not respecting her or Andrew when it came to their relationship (I mean – they didn’t know it was fake, like that rude?? Especially since they seemed to like him??). The situation was perfectly infuriating and frustrating as Chloe continued to question her choices and autonomy through the book.

I loved Andrew – he’s a huge softie who’s willing to fight for for Chloe, and I loved the story behind his art (ahhhh my heart). I also hate his family story, but again understood the reasons behind it, even if I didn’t like them. One thing I absolutely love about Gloria Chao’s books is that she shows that there can be a middle ground with parental relationships (though that’s still not always the case), and that it’s okay to fight for your mental health and boundaries. Personally, I’m still really struggling on that front with my family so books like these really give me hope and make me feel seen.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
World Building: 4.5/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Pacing: 4/5
Overall: 4/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.62/5

eARC gifted via NetGalley by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers and Simon and Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Watcher in the Woods by Kelley Armstrong

38349181._sy475_Title: Watcher in the Woods [Rockton #4]
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: Feb 19, 2019
Publisher: Minotaur Books
GoodReads

Synopsis:

The secret town of Rockton has seen some rocky times lately; understandable considering its mix of criminals and victims fleeing society for refuge within its Yukon borders. Casey Duncan, the town’s only detective on a police force of three, has already faced murder, arson and falling in love in less than the year that she’s lived there. Yet even she didn’t think it would be possible for an outsider to find and cause trouble in the town she’s come to call home.

When a US Marshal shows up in town demanding the release of one of the residents, Casey and her boyfriend, Sheriff Dalton, are skeptical. And yet only hours later, the marshal is shot dead and the only visible suspects are the townspeople and her estranged sister, in town for just the weekend. It’s up to Casey to figure out who murdered the marshal, and why they would kill to keep him quiet.

Review:

Watcher in the Woods was pure chaos and I loved it. After the events of This Fallen Prey, Watcher in the Woods provides a semblance of peace for about 2 minutes before everything goes to hell again.

I really enjoyed getting to know April better and see the relationship between Casey and April develop through the book. The fact that Kelley Armstrong provides diversity in her books in so many different ways continue to impress me (even though it should be the norm!). April being on the spectrum tracks with Casey’s previous stories about her and I loved seeing how April attempting to compensate for some of these traits allowed her to build relationships with Kenny and Casey.

As always, I adore Dalton and Casey and love how supportive and comfortable they are with each other. Their relationship is #goals for me and I just grin like a fool when they’re together. Also, it makes me so happy seeing Storm grow up – she’s so cute (their doggo in case you didn’t know)!

With the vast cast of characters, it’s also great seeing more of who’s in town and the type of people who’ve been admitted. We got a lot of Diana and Petra in the first few books, but we’re learning more about Kenny, Matthias, and Jen, which has been interesting and has also led to more questions about Rockton and its mysterious council, as well as how they vet and admit residents.

Armstrong has such a gift for writing and Watcher in the Woods is another hit – suspects around every corner, suspense and mystery hitting just right so that I never know whodunnit until the end!

Plot: 4.5/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 4.5/5
Writing: 5/5
Pacing: 4.5/5
Overall: 5/5
GoodReads: 4.14/5

eARC gifted through NetGalley via Minotaur Books and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.

Author Interview: My Name is Layla by Reyna Marder Gentin

Title: My Name is Layla
Author: Reyna Marder Gentin
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
Publication Date: January 19, 2021
Publisher: TouchPoint Press
GoodReads

Synopsis:

School will never be the same…

On the first day of eighth grade, thirteen year-old Layla has a pretty good idea of what’s in store for her– another year of awkward social situations, mediocre grades, and teachers who praise her good behavior but find her academic performance disappointing. Layla feels certain she’s capable of more, but each time she tries to read or write, the words on the page dance and spin, changing partners and leaving her to sit on the sidelines.

Her new English teacher, Mr. McCarthy, senses her potential. When he pushes her to succeed, Layla almost rises to the challenge before making a desperate choice that nearly costs her everything she’s gained. Will she be able to get back on track? And who can she count on to help her?

Buy Link:
Amazon CA | Amazon US | Kobo

Author Interview:

Hi! Welcome to Between Printed Pages, we’re so happy to have you here today.

So happy to be here!

Before we start, would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure. My name is Reyna Marder Gentin and I’m a writer from Westchester County, New York, where I live with my husband, Pierre Gentin. We have two adult children, Ariella  and Micah.  I spent many years as a practicing attorney, working mainly in a public defender’s office representing felons appealing their convictions. In 2014, I left my job and began focusing on writing, an in October, 2021, my third novel will be published.

What was the inspiration for My Name is Layla and what about the story called to you?

I took a workshop on writing for youth, and I became interested in writing a story about a young person struggling with an issue that might not be obvious on the surface, but which could cause great frustration and loss of self-esteem. I wanted it to be something that could propel a person to make poor choices that she would then have to fight her way back from—showing resiliency and learning and teaching empathy along the way. I chose to write about dyslexia.

What is something you wish everyone knew about dyslexia?

I wish everyone knew that dyslexia is the most common learning difference, and it doesn’t mean that a person is unintelligent. With hard work, most people can learn to read.

Your first book, Unreasonable Doubts, is adult fiction. Was writing My Name is Layla very different? And why did you decide on writing this one for a middle-grade audience?

My first book, Unreasonable Doubts, was inspired by the work I had done as a public defender. Many of the characters were based on people I had known, and the plot was drawn from a case that I had handled. In that sense, it was “easier” to write, because I was drawing from my own experience. My Name Is Layla was written from my imagination, although I certainly accessed my own memories of what it was like to be a young teenager, the frustrations, the intensity of the emotions.

What’s a song that describes My Name is Layla?

We Are The Champions

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Don’t be afraid to try. Just get something down on paper and you can make it better later – if you’ve written nothing, you have nothing to work on. And subject your self to critiques from real readers (not your mom!); it can be painful, but it’s really had to assess your own work. You don’t have to accept everything someone says, but consider it carefully.

What are three books you believe everyone should take a chance on?

The Outsiders, Lonesome Dove, Olive Kitteredge

Your next book, Both Are True, is out in October. Could you tell us a little bit about it?

Jackie Martin is a woman whose intelligence and ambition have earned her a coveted position as a judge on the Manhattan Family Court—and left her lonely at age 40. When she meets Lou Greenberg, Jackie thinks she’s finally found someone who will accept her exactly as she is. But when Lou’s own issues, including an unresolved yearning for his ex-wife, make him bolt without explanation, Jackie must finally put herself under the same microscope as the people she judges. When their worlds collide in Jackie’s courtroom, she learns that sometimes love’s greatest gift is opening you up to love others.

Last, but not least, what is your favourite word?

Oy!

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions, Reyna! Congratulations on your release of My Name is Layla!

Buy it today!
Amazon CA | Amazon US | Kobo

Book Tour + Review: The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff

Title: The Great Godden
Author: Meg Rosoff
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication Date: April 13, 2021
Publisher: Penguin Teen
GoodReads

Synopsis:

We Were Liars meets Call Me By Your Name in this lyrical and quintessential coming-of-age tale about a summer when everything changes, from Meg Rosoff, bestselling author of the iconic novel How I Live Now.

This is the story of one family, one dreamy summer. . . . In a holiday house by the sea, our watchful narrator sees everything, including many things they shouldn’t, as their brother and sisters, parents and older cousins fill hot days with wine and games and planning a wedding. Enter two brothers: irresistible, charming, languidly sexy Kit and surly, silent Hugo. Suddenly there’s a serpent in this paradise — and the consequences will be devastating.

Review:

The Great Godden left me with mixed feelings. I waffled on what to write about it for a while because the narration was so beautiful and unique, but the overall story was something I wasn’t that into, if that makes any sense. Let me break it down.

The main character is never named, gendered, or given an age, which gave the narration a sort of distant feeling. They’re the eldest sibling though and more of an observer than someone who jumps into the spotlight. These are important to take into consideration later.

The author definitely nailed the sibling relationship with this family – thoughts of comparison, the understanding that sometimes we only know two or three things that define our siblings as humans. I definitely related to how the MC observed and interacted with their siblings for the most part – everyone had their thing and they only interacted when necessary.

That being said, with some situations, I found it weird that the MC never felt the need to try to mediate or intervene in any way. They just stayed out of it all and kind of watched (and slightly participated in) a train wreck. Again, not necessarily unrealistic, but it surprised me how clinically everything was processed through the MC’s POV, but there was also little self-reflection on their part. Even when they were angry, it didn’t really come through in the narration except for what we’re told and I kind of liked it and didn’t at the same time?? Definitely an interesting writing choice on the author’s part.

There were two lines that I really hated. I felt they were insensitive and unnecessary. I think it’s important to point them out so other readers aren’t surprised by them like I was:

“If only I could remain among you gorgeous friends instead of flying off to Hungary,” she said, infecting “Hungary” with the same enthusiasm you might normally save for “Pyongyang”

This is a negative statement, implying Korea is not a desirable destination, and it was jarring to read that, especially as an East-Asian. It hit me as a comparison that seemed unnecessary and hurtful to make. I even tried to reconcile it in my head and wondered if it was meant as a positive thing, but the context just doesn’t lend itself to such a reversal.

No one else went clear, so there was no jump-off, praise Allah-Jehovah-Zeus…

I didn’t understand the need to use three gods names in such a way, lumping together names people hold sacred in such a flippant manner – ex. I’m Christian and I would never holds God’s name at the same level as Zeus’s as I believe Grecian gods to be mythology. The character is seemingly equating them, but none of them stand equal in many people’s eyes and it’s disrespectful and hurtful to use the name of gods that aren’t yours in such a way.

All of this talk and I still haven’t mentioned the Goddens. I don’t know where to start. I was very frustrated with the ignorance of the characters, the lack of intervention of the parents, and the general way the whole situation was handled. Kit is all charisma and Hugo is recluse and unsociable, and how they’re integrated into the MC’s family is what leads to many of the problems the family finds themselves buried in later. However, I do think that because of the outcomes and the lessons taught and learned, this book is very valuable and important. One thing I liked (and again, also disliked) is how gaslighting is presented and explained in the book – I think if I had read this when I was younger, this would’ve had such an impact on my mental health and given me insight into some of the things I’ve experienced and questioned.

All in all, I did like the book for its lyrical writing and interesting narrative, as well as for the lessons taught and what it can teach readers now and in the future. That being said, there was some insensitive content, as well as weird moments that were uncomfortable for reasons I can’t really pin down (but that might have also been the point??). So, did I like it? Kind of, mostly. Do I recommend it? I think so, maybe. Inconclusive, I know, but I hope my review gave you a better idea of whether you want to pick this one up.

Plot: 3.5/5
Characters: 3/5
World Building: 4/5
Writing: 3/5
Pacing: 3/5
Overall: 2.5/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.66/5

Book provided by Penguin Teen in exchange for an honest review.

Buy Links:
Indigo | Amazon CA | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Book Depository

Review: Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

Title: Good Girl, Bad Blood [A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #2]
Author: Holly Jackson
Genre: YA Mystery
Publication Date: March 2, 2021
Publisher: Delacorte Press
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Pip is not a detective anymore.

With the help of Ravi Singh, she released a true-crime podcast about the murder case they solved together last year. The podcast has gone viral, yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her.

But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared, on the very same night the town hosted a memorial for the sixth-year anniversary of the deaths of Andie Bell and Sal Singh.

The police won’t do anything about it. And if they won’t look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town’s dark secrets along the way… and this time everyone is listening. But will she find him before it’s too late?

Review:

I don’t know how, but this was equally as good, if not better than, the first book!

Love the slow unfolding of the case, the subtle hints and pieces that fall together at the end. Pip was a lot closer to this case (her best friend Connor’s brother disappears), and so we see her trying to find herself as much as she tries to find Jamie through this book. I loved the growth among the characters, and how the romance is supportive and very there, but it doesn’t over take the main plot and mystery. And Pip and (redacted) have such a fantastic relationship – very healthy, communicative, and supportive, which is sadly so rare in YA (for some reason??).

We don’t stop seeing Andie Bell and Sal Singh in this book though – the trial is happening, people have been found guilty, and we see how some of that impacts this story as well, which is fantastic (the domino effect is strong in this one, and I love it).

Something Holly Jackson does really well too is adding subtle diversity to the town – a random clue behind someone who is Middle-Eastern, the family that moved out with the East Asian last name. Little things like that go a long way, and I appreciated that these details helped build the world and develop the case at the same time.

Good Girl, Bad Blood also has a lot more media elements than the first book – images, maps, etc. that help build up the case. I read AGGGTM as an audiobook and there was only one map that I couldn’t see. This book would have a number of JPEGs missing from the audiobook, though the images are described in detail in the story itself, but the photos are supplement the story nicely.

Absolutely love this series, and I’m psyched to read the next book.

Plot: 5/5
Characters: 4.5/5
World Building: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Pace: 5/5
Overall: 5/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.7/5

TW: Murder, Accounts of Sexual Assault with Drugs, Catfishing

eARC received from Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Heiress Gets A Duke by Harper St. George

Title: The Heiress Gets A Duke
Author: Harper St. George
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher
: Berkley
Publication Date
: Jan 26, 2020
GoodReads

Synopsis:

American heiress August Crenshaw has aspirations. But unlike her peers, it isn’t some stuffy British Lord she wants wrapped around her finger—it’s Crenshaw Iron Works, the family business. When it’s clear that August’s outrageously progressive ways render her unsuitible for a respectable match, her parents offer up her younger sister to the highest entitled bidder instead. This simply will not do. August refuses to leave her sister to the mercy of a loveless marriage.

Evan Sterling, the Duke of Rothschild, has no intention of walking away from the marriage. He’s recently inherited the title only to find his coffers empty, and with countless lives depending on him, he can’t walk away from the fortune a Crenshaw heiress would bring him. But after meeting her fiery sister, he realizes Violet isn’t the heiress he wants. He wants August, and he always gets what he wants.

But August won’t go peacefully to her fate. She decides to show Rothschild that she’s no typical London wallflower. Little does she realize that every stunt she pulls to make him call off the wedding only makes him like her even more.

Review:

I’m not a huge historical romance reader, but I absolutely adored how put together this book was – the characters, the story, and the writing had me absolutely hooked! This takes place in 1875 London, with August and her family visiting from New York. Already, there’s a huge difference in how the Crenshaw family conducts themselves versus those of London society. For one – August works for her family business. As a result, rumours state that she’s “mannish,” thus making her ineligible for a proper match (which August thinks is trash, I agree obviously).

That being said, I loved how little drama there was through this book (for the most part, but we’ll get into that later). I loved that despite August fulfulling the I’m-not-like-other-girls trope, she never shames the women around her for how they conduct their lives – she shows pity for those forced into marriage, and respects those who are able to make the system work for them without bringing shame. It was refreshing that there wasn’t any shame thrown around – it’s just August didn’t want that for herself and I loved how willing she was to fight for the freedom of her sister and herself to marry who they loved.

Can I also note that Evan is the KING of consent and it wasn’t obvious or overstated. His character growth through the book was fantastic – he always tried not to stomp on August’s ideals and characters, despite needing to marry her to save his estates and support his family and staff. I appreciated how much he cared about what she wanted, even if it was something as simple as a kiss.

Tension. There was so much delicious tension between August and Evan from the very beginning and their verbal sparring made me smile often through the book, and showed how very equal they were in wit and humour. There’s so much detail and depth in all characters, not just the MCs. Everyone had a chance to show off their personality which added to the whole story and world immensely.

My one gripe with the book is the end. As noted, this book has little drama, but the end has two fairly big misunderstandings/complications that cause a rift between the MCs that was resolved all too quickly. A whole book developing and growing these characters and the end reward was so rushed that it took away from the overall story as a result. It left the book feeling a little unresolved and didn’t leave me fully satisfied, even though it was the end I wanted, which is a real shame and took a star off from my overall rating.

As a whole, this book surprised me in its depth and in its characters. I’m extremely excited to read Violet’s companion novel in July when it releases!

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 4.5/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Pacing: 4/5
Overall: 4/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.99/5

eARC obtained via Berkley via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Buy Links:
Book Depository | Indigo | Amazon CA | Penguin CA

Book Tour: Rent A Boyfriend by Gloria Chao

Welcome to the Rent A Boyfriend Book Tour, hosted by Hear Our Voices!

Title: Rent A Boyfriend
Author: Gloria Chao
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: Nov 10, 2020
GoodReads

Synopsis:

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before meets The Farewell in this incisive romantic comedy about a college student who hires a fake boyfriend to appease her traditional Taiwanese parents, to disastrous results, from the acclaimed author of American Panda.

Chloe Wang is nervous to introduce her parents to her boyfriend, because the truth is, she hasn’t met him yet either. She hired him from Rent for Your ’Rents, a company specializing in providing fake boyfriends trained to impress even the most traditional Asian parents.

Drew Chan’s passion is art, but after his parents cut him off for dropping out of college to pursue his dreams, he became a Rent for Your ’Rents employee to keep a roof over his head. Luckily, learning protocols like “Type C parents prefer quiet, kind, zero-PDA gestures” comes naturally to him.

When Chloe rents Drew, the mission is simple: convince her parents fake Drew is worthy of their approval so they’ll stop pressuring her to accept a proposal from Hongbo, the wealthiest (and slimiest) young bachelor in their tight-knit Asian American community.

But when Chloe starts to fall for the real Drew—who, unlike his fake persona, is definitely not ’rent-worthy—her carefully curated life begins to unravel. Can she figure out what she wants before she loses everything?

Buy Links:
Indigo | Bookshop | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Amazon

If you liked that, read this!

On the theme of fake dating and familial expectations, here’s a list of 10 books I’d recommend to you if you’re looking for characters who’ve tried to fit cultural or social expectations and have been surprised and/or changed by the people around them and the people they meet along the way!

American Panda by Gloria Chao 
Gloria Chao’s debut novel about Mei, a first-gen immigrant, dealing with family expectations, the stress of cultural norms, and figuring out whether its her dreams or someone else’s she’s chasing. A great #ownvoices book starring a Taiwanese MC!

The Way to Game the Walk of Shame by Jenn P. Nguyen
This is a favourite of mine and you can read my full review here! With very similar vibes to Rent A Boyfriend, Taylor, the school nerd and “ice queen,” makes a deal with popular, playboy, Evan, to pretend to be in a relationship after waking up to a sea of gossip the day after a party. With focus on broken and found families, this book is full of cute and fun moments!

Frankly In Love by David Yoon
Another great fake-dating #ownvoice romance! Frank Li is caught between the cultural expectations of his Korean parents and his Southern California upbringing. To hide his Caucasian girlfriend, he enlists fellow Korean-American Joy Song to pretend to be his girlfriend. A fun book about expectations and teen love, this book is sure to keep a smile on your face!

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West
What happens when you fall for someone you don’t know? When Lily writes her favourite lyrics on her chemistry table out of boredom, it surprises her when someone write a response! Full of high school drama, missed connections, and the joys of being part of a big family, P.S. I Like You is a cute YA romance that you’re sure to fall for!

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
If you need a laugh, Morgan Matson’s got you! The Unexpected Everything is a fun story about subverting social expectations, a teeny-tiny scandal (kind of), and lots of dogs! Andie learns the hard way that not everything in life can be planned, and sometimes you just have to go along for the ride.

Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo
A whirlwind one-day romance between Lucky, a K-Pop star, and Jack, a paparazzo, who meet when Lucky goes out in search of a burger. Full of cute moments, heavier moments (addressing anxiety and body image), and scenic travel scenes through Hong Kong, this book is for lovers of K-Pop, travel, and insta-love (ish!)!

Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali
What happens with you pretend to be someone you’re not? What happens when you don’t? A beautiful book about living differently for others and figuring out how to be true to yourself and stand up for what you love and who you love in a world that keeps trying to tear you down.

I’ll Be The One by Lyla Lee
Staying true to yourself is hard enough, but Skye Shin is trying to do that while also competing to be the first plus-sized K-Pop star. Navigating a glittery world of fat-phobia, media scrutiny, and maybe love (???), Skye has her work cut out for her. A fantastic stand-alone and a great look at the unrealistic (and often dangerous) standards of the K-Pop industry.

Charming As A Verb by Ben Philippe
Henri is the dutiful first-gen Haitian son who seems to have it all figured out, but Henri burns with ambition outside of the expectations set for him. When he’s enlisted by Corinne Troy to help fix her image at school, they both find themselves wondering how much it’d cost them to be themselves.

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon
You’ve probably heard of this one before, but I’ll be another voice telling you to read it! Another one-day romance that is chalk full of self-discovery, taking chances, and falling in love, even when the future is uncertain.

Hope you found some books to add to your TBR and some new #ownvoice books to invest in! And remember, Rent A Boyfriend by Gloria Chao is out today!

Buy Links:
Indigo | Bookshop | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Amazon

About the Author:

Gloria Chao is the critically acclaimed author of American Panda, Our Wayward Fate, and the upcoming Rent a Boyfriend (Nov 10, 2020). When she’s not writing, you can find her with her husband on the curling ice or hiking the Indiana Dunes. After a brief detour as a dentist, she is now grateful to spend her days in fictional characters’ heads instead of real people’s mouths.

Author Links:
Newsletter | Website | GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Blog Tour: The Fallen Hero by Katie Zhao

Welcome to The Fallen Hero blog tour, hosted by Caffeine Book Tours!

Title: The Fallen Hero
Author: Katie Zhao
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Kids
Publication Date: October 13, 2020
GoodReads

Synopsis:

[Spoilers for The Dragon Warrior ahead]

Faryn Liu thought she was the Heaven Breaker, a warrior destined to wield the all-powerful spear Fenghuang, command dragons, and defeat demons. But a conniving goddess was manipulating her all along…and her beloved younger brother, Alex, has betrayed her and taken over as the Heaven Breaker instead. Alex never forgave the people who treated him and Faryn like outcasts, and now he wants to wipe out both the demons and most of humanity.

Determined to prevent a war and bring Alex back to her side, Faryn and her half-dragon friend Ren join the New Order, a group of warriors based out of Manhattan’s Chinatown. She learns that one weapon can stand against Fenghuang–the Ruyi Jingu Bang. Only problem? It belongs to an infamous trickster, the Monkey King.

Faryn sets off on a daring quest to convince the Monkey King to join forces with her, one that will take her to new places–including Diyu, otherwise known as the Underworld–where she’ll run into new dangers and more than one familiar face. Can she complete her mission and save the brother she loves, no matter the cost?

Review:

Have I mentioned I’m in love with this series? I honestly think this is one of my favourite middle grade series to date! Full of daring adventures and high-stake consequences, this book blew me away. Right from the start, we’re thrown into action – the author wastes no time putting our heroes into the path of danger and by the end of chapter one I was eager to binge the book in its entirety (admittedly, sleep won that round, but I did end up devouring this book!).

I don’t want to give too much away, but, as mentioned in the synopsis, Faryn isn’t the Chosen One anymore – her brother now holds that title. It was really interesting to see how she dealt with not only losing that title, but having it given to her brother who changes sides. I appreciated the author exploring how life works when what you think is destiny comes to a grinding halt.

Through this book, there’s the same witty humour, fantastical world building, and fascinating development and exploration of Chinese mythology. I liked how focused this one was on the mythology around the Monkey King. I also enjoyed the new characters and the fact that there’s acknowledgement that Faryn’s situation, and the situation of most diaspora people, isn’t unique and requires some grappling and some soul searching to fully understand how to be content in our own skin.

As a whole, I’m really enjoying this series and loving every bit of it! The end of the book is left open for a third book and I’m excited to see what the future holds for these beloved characters!

Plot: 4.5/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 5/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Pacing: 4.5/5
Overall: 5/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.23/5

eARC obtained via Caffeine Book Tours via Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review.

Buy Links:
Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & NobleBook Depository | IndieBound

About the Author:

Katie Zhao is a 2017 graduate of the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English and Political Science, and a 2018 Masters of Accounting at the same university. She is the author of Chinese #ownvoices middle grade fantasy THE DRAGON WARRIOR (Bloomsbury Kids, October 2019 & 2020), as well as a young adult author. She is a mentor for Author Mentor Match. She is currently open to freelance editorial services for young adult and middle grade manuscripts.

Author Links:
Website | GoodReads | Instagram | Twitter

Review: The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao

Title: The Dragon Warrior
Author: Katie Zhao
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Publication Date: Oct 15, 2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury
GoodReads

Synopsis:

As a member of the Jade Society, twelve-year-old Faryn Liu dreams of honoring her family and the gods by becoming a warrior. But the Society has shunned Faryn and her brother Alex ever since their father disappeared years ago, forcing them to train in secret.

Then, during an errand into San Francisco, Faryn stumbles into a battle with a demon–and helps defeat it. She just might be the fabled Heaven Breaker, a powerful warrior meant to work for the all-mighty deity, the Jade Emperor, by commanding an army of dragons to defeat the demons. That is, if she can prove her worth and find the island of the immortals before the Lunar New Year.

With Alex and other unlikely allies at her side, Faryn sets off on a daring quest across Chinatowns. But becoming the Heaven Breaker will require more sacrifices than she first realized . . . What will Faryn be willing to give up to claim her destiny?

Inspired by Chinese mythology, this richly woven contemporary middle-grade fantasy, full of humor, magic, and heart, will appeal to readers who love Roshani Chokshi and Sayantani DasGupta.

Review:

The Dragon Warrior is a beautiful and fun middle grade fantasy full of humour, mythology, and East Asian culture. I love that there are more East Asian fantasy books coming to the middle grade genre. This is exactly the kind of book I needed as a kid.

Faryn is a fierce warrior who is determined and breaks through all the limitations that society has set for her. She felt out of place in the Western world – one of those too Asian to be American, too American to be Asian – which I totally understand being that myself. Faryn has so much heart and I loved seeing her learn more about her history and her culture.

I also loved the world building in this one – they really brought to life the Chinese culture in San Fran with descriptions of delicious foods, Chinese celebrations, and mythology. Being Chinese myself, I learned stuff that I didn’t even know (I’m second gen, so there’s much that wasn’t passed down). The adventures and action-packed story gave me a Rick Riordan vibe, as well, making this even better (honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Katie Zhao one day ends up part of his publishing company).

The Dragon Warrior ensures that young Asian kids can find themselves in books too, and that we can be the hero. I’m excited to dive into the second book! I love the humour, all the characters, and the great lengths the author went to in order to introduce readers to Chinese culture and values.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 4.5/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Pacing: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5
GoodReads: 4.05/5

eBook obtained via Caffeine Book Tours via Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review.

Book Tour + Review: Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

Title: Where Dreams Descend
Author: Janella Angeles
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
Genre: YA Fantasy
GoodReads

Synopsis:

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

Review:

If you’ve had an itch for magical performances, fantastical circuses, and a bit of mystery – you’ve come to the right place!

Where Dreams Descend is a slow burn masterpiece that brings to life a forgotten city, filling it with magic and intrigue. I fell in love with the magic of this world and the beauty of the performances – I hung onto every detail, every wonderful moment. I loved how well this world was built and the prose is probably the biggest reason this book gets my love! The mystery also lends itself to the plot. I appreciate that this book isn’t all just one big hullabaloo – the author gives events time to breathe, lets the dust settle, and then drops the other shoe when you least expect it. It’s both terrifying and fantastic. Because of this, I’ve honestly been unable to get this book out of my head for weeks!

On top of the beauty of the magical world, I love Kallia. I appreciate how she just storms through these crowds of people who are ready to tear her apart and performs so amazingly that they’re just struck with awe. She is a badass protagonist who refuses to take anyone’s crap, and yet we grow to know her weaknesses and understand her fears. Yes, she can be immature at times, and she doesn’t always ask the right questions, but I love her and the Conquering Circus crew for being amazing, powerful women who crash through the obstacles society puts in their way.

Where Dreams Descend is the first book in a duology. With all the mystery and secrets, it’s clear that much of this book is setting up for its sequel. And that’s fine. However, I wish there was a lot more communication between characters and more character development for Daron and Jack. There’s so much left unsaid that it becomes frustrating at points, especially with Jack. As much as I loved the tension that’s present with both of them and Kallia (for very different reasons), I feel like their characters could have been explored more, at least for the eyes of the reader. I predict, and pray, that the sequel will be more focused on Daron or Jack in order to round out the series, as this book was very much Kallia’s book, with Daron as the side act.

As a whole, Where Dreams Descend is a strong debut that builds up slowly, layering up drama, mystery, and magic for you to marvel at by the end. I’m desperate to get my hands on book two (even though book one isn’t even out yet, ahh!!), and I’m excited to unlock whatever secrets Jack and Glorian hold!

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
World Building: 5/5
Pacing: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Overall: 4/5
GoodReads: 3.85/5

eARC obtained via Wednesday Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Buy it Now!

About the Author:

Janella Angeles is a Filipino-American author who got her start in writing through consuming glorious amounts of fanfiction at a young age—which eventually led to penning a few of her own, and later on, creating original stories from her imagination. A lifelong lover of books, she’s lucky enough to be working in the business of publishing them on top of
writing them. She currently resides in Massachusetts, where she’s most likely to be found listening to musicals on repeat and daydreaming too much for her own good. Where Dreams Descend is her first book.

Author Links:
Instagram | Twitter

Early Praise:

“Where Dreams Descend is a glamorous dark gem of a tale, sparkling with romance, magic, and intrigue. Readers will be captivated by prima donna Kallia as the mystery is slowly unmasked. Bravissima!”
– Julie C. Dao, author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

“Vibrant imagery, jaw-dropping set pieces, sizzling romantic tension, and unstoppable heroine Kallia bring this ambitious debut novel to spectacular life. Fans of Caraval and The Night Circus will be delighted!”
– Claire Legrand, New York Times bestselling author of Furyborn