Tempests Shout the Dual Moons’ Presence: A Review of Son of the Storm (Book Tour)

Tour banner for the Nameless Republic Tour. At the top, it reads, "Son of the Storm" in bold white serif font. Underneath, it says, "By Suyi Dacies Okungbowa." The text is on a blue background. The top of the face of the person on the cover is in view.

Hey there, traveler!

What happens when ambition meets fate — when disparate paths intertwine and intersect so intricately that those who trace it come to realize that the path never branched off; it was always one winding road to begin with? Lives connect in trembling, shocking ways. Intentions become clear when the night falls. 

Welcome, dear traveler, to Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa, a novel released on May 11, 2021, that stunned me as I completed it on a stormy night, crying out towards the final page as each thread of the plot converged into a complex point.  

I am honored and pleased to be part of the Nameless Republic Book Tour, hosted by Caffeine Book Tours! Ginormous thanks to Caffeine Book Tours and Son of the Storm’s publisher, Orbit Books, for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of the novel for my participation in this tour.

Feel free to peruse the launch post for the book tour here!

SYNOPSIS:

A young scholar’s ambition threatens to reshape an empire determined to retain its might in this epic tale of violent conquest, buried histories, and forbidden magic.

In the thriving city of Bassa, Danso is a clever but disillusioned scholar who longs for a life beyond the rigid family and political obligations expected of the city’s elite. A way out presents itself when Lilong, a skin-changing warrior, shows up wounded in his barn. She comes from the Nameless Islands–which, according to Bassa lore, don’t exist–and neither should the mythical magic of ibor she wields. Now swept into a conspiracy far beyond his understanding, Danso will have to set out on a journey that reveals histories violently suppressed and magic only found in lore.


Goodreads | Book Depository | IndieBound | Amazon


On-page Representation:

  • African/Black
  • Albinism
  • Disability
  • Nonbinary
  • Pan/polysexual

Content Warnings:

  • Ageism
  • Bones
  • Colorism/discrimination
  • Emotionally manipulative relationship
  • Fire
  • Misogyny
  • Pain
  • Pregnancy and miscarriage/abortion
  • Violence, blood and murder

tl;dr: Do I recommend this book?


MY RATING: ★★★★★


Traveler. This book is made of pure magic. 

We shall analyze it, spoiler-free, together!

Continue reading “Tempests Shout the Dual Moons’ Presence: A Review of Son of the Storm (Book Tour)”

Wells That Draw Water: A Review of Transcendent Kingdom

Hello there, traveler! Happy Belated Mother’s Day! 💜

To all the moms and parents out there, thank you for your loveliness. Shout out to eldest siblings, aunts, grandparents, and guardians. And to everyone who isn’t with a loved one today, or haven’t had much to celebrate lately, here’s a colossal hug. 🤗 You deserve the world.

Let’s talk about one of my recent reads, Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, a short, surprising read about family life, immigrant experiences, religion alignments, and mental health that I absolutely adored.

The cover for Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi.

SYNOPSIS:

Gifty is a fifth-year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after a knee injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her.

But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family’s loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive. Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief — a novel about faith, science, religion, love. 


Goodreads | Book Depository | IndieBound


Rep:

  • Ghananaian cast, protagonist, and author
  • Bisexual main character
  • Depression
  • Mental health representation
  • Religious representation (Christianity)
  • BIPOC characters

Content Warnings:

  • Death
  • Depression
  • Drug abuse
  • Overdose
  • Parental neglect
  • Racial slurs
  • Racism
  • Suicidal ideation

tl;dr: Do I recommend this book?

"Yes," written in bold, black text.

MY RATING: ★★★★★


“We read the Bible how we want to read it. It doesn’t change, but we do.”

I read this book for a school assignment — to analyze, dissect, and interpret as required by my English teacher (who is amazing, by the way) and her Google-Doc dissertation prompt. I had no idea how profoundly Transcendent Kingdom would affect me.

Continue reading “Wells That Draw Water: A Review of Transcendent Kingdom”

Angels, Action, and an All-Queer Cast: An Interview with Debut Author Jameson Rivera

Welcome back to the blog, dear traveler! Happy April, too. 🙇🏻‍♀️ I am pleased to be presenting my first author interview on Sophie and Their Stories: a chat with my good friend and incredibly talented speculative author Jameson Rivera about his debut fantasy novel, Broken Stone, which is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Join us as we discuss worldbuilding, character arcs, LGBTQIA+ representation in the media, funky tunes, and all things in between! The interview will be entirely spoiler-free.

The cover for Broken Stone. The shadow of an angel looms over the shape of a gravestone against a bright landscape with mountains and a red sky.

SYNOPSIS:

Ruiz Gravenor longs to destroy the Kingdom of Lygos, to finally revenge himself on the imperialist regime that subjugates his homeland, the island of Fieroe. In a trick of fate, he is chosen by the eldritch god hibernating beneath the island and bestowed with otherworldly powers. As Ruiz travels Lygos, he uses his talents to incite resistance. Still, he is but one man with many enemies 一 including the Lygian Saint-King’s right-hand man, Gideon Minmose.

Despite their animosity, both are far from home, haunted by traumatic memories. And Gideon, burdened with responsibility, is also chosen by a god. For all that Ruiz and Gideon appear as enemies, they have forged a secret partnership to eliminate Lygos’ reign. When forgotten rituals to revive the ancient gods are suddenly unearthed, they must risk everything for a chance at victory. With the gods’ rebirth comes the promise of freedom, but failure means certain death. What’s more, the gods are old and unknowable, and meddling with them could tear reality apart.


Goodreads | Amazon | Pre-order Links


Rep:

  • Transmasc, Puerto Rican/mixed-race author
  • Neurodivergent author and characters
  • Queer author and characters
  • Trans characters
  • Latino-coded protagonist
  • Black protagonist
  • BIPOC-coded characters
  • mlm and wlw characters
  • Mental illness rep

Content Warnings:

  • Alcoholism/Alcohol dependence
  • Colonialism
  • Gore
  • Allusions to CSA and nonexplicit discussions of abuse
  • Consensual sex/explicit sexual content
  • Body horror

Let us take flight!

Continue reading “Angels, Action, and an All-Queer Cast: An Interview with Debut Author Jameson Rivera”

The Skies Sing for Revolution: A Review of The Unbroken (Book Tour)

Greetings, dear traveler! I’ve got a special treat for you today: welcome to my tour spot for The Unbroken by C. L. Clark, a brilliant, breathtaking debut adult fantasy inspired by North Africa, which was just released on March 23, 2021!

I extend my greatest thanks to the wonderful Caffeine Book Tours and the book’s publisher, Orbit Books, for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of The Unbroken for my participation in this tour.

Be sure to check out the launch post for The Unbroken book tour via this link!

SYNOPSIS:

Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to kill and die for the empire, her only loyalty is to her fellow conscripts. But now, her company has been sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion, and the ties of blood may be stronger than she thought.

Luca needs a turncoat. Someone desperate enough to tiptoe the bayonet’s edge between treason and orders. Someone who can sway the rebels toward peace, while Luca focuses on what really matters: getting her uncle off her throne.

Through assassinations and massacres, in bedrooms and war rooms, Touraine and Luca will haggle over the price of a nation. But some things aren’t for sale.


Goodreads | Book Depository | IndieBound | Amazon


Rep:

  • Protagonists of color
  • LGBT protagonists
  • F/F main characters
  • M/M side characters
  • Nonbinary side character
  • Older women

Content Warnings:

  • Depictions of colonial violence (physical and emotional) and destruction
  • Gore
  • Past attempted rape
  • Threats of rape
  • Threats of torture

tl;dr: Do I recommend this book?


MY RATING: ★★★★★


“You’ll have to fight for one side or the other. Why not fight for the side that gives you freedom?”

In my eyes, fantasy is a perfect genre. 

What’s not to love? Through fantasy, traveler, I can flee to far-flung, exciting realms unlike any land I have ever touched; gain the power to cut dragons from paper, chase monsters from a metropolis, or jump-start my car without much strife; and I can explore all the deadly complexities of life and living, framed with a subtle hint of magic. 

Fantasy can be a receptacle for both discovery and education through its worldbuilding, characters, and commentary. (And it always makes me cry. 😃 Laugh the pain away!)

The Unbroken is an absolutely prime work of fantasy. I’m obsessed.

Let’s discuss it, traveler! (This review will be spoiler-free!)

Continue reading “The Skies Sing for Revolution: A Review of The Unbroken (Book Tour)”

Souls From a Serrated Page: A Review of The Chosen and the Beautiful

I’ve been waiting for this one! (Turn it up!)

How are you, traveler? I hope you’re doing well.

It’s my birthday today! 🎂 I’m turning eighteen, which is crazy! To celebrate this, I’d like to discuss one of my most anticipated reads of 2021 (and incidentally one of my new all-time favorites) The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo, the author of a fantasy novella series I love, The Singing Hills Cycle.

From the cover, premise, and style, I was absolutely ready to dive right in. And dive in, I did!

SYNOPSIS:

Immigrant. Socialite. Magician.

Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society―she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her.

But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how.


Goodreads | Book Depository | IndieBound | Preorder Portal


Rep: queer, Vietnamese author and protagonist; queer and BIPOC characters; Asian characters

Content Warnings: racism, fetishization, and xenophobia; homophobia; domestic abuse; sexual intercourse and interactions; pregnancy and abortion; death; substance use

tl;dr: Do I recommend this book?


MY RATING: ★★★★★


“Having gay time now?” I asked, breaking the silence with a smile.

Oh, Jordan. Dearest, darling Jordan Baker — my spirit, my star, my soul. Yes. Yes, amen, I am.

Continue reading “Souls From a Serrated Page: A Review of The Chosen and the Beautiful”

Amity, Affluence, and AP Exams: A Review of Not THAT Rich

Hello again, traveler! Are you searching for a fun, diverse book by an Asian-American author? Look no further! Let’s discuss Not THAT Rich by Belinda Lei, a debut YA novel to the tune of Crazy Rich Asians and Gossip Girl that had me absolutely hooked from start to finish and gave me a bit of sunlight during freezing, frightening times.

The cover of Not THAT Rich by Belinda Lei. The text, "Not THAT Rich," at the top of the cover and the author's name at the bottom of the cover are written in gold. An art-deco-esque female figure stands in front of a gothic-style gate amidst a green background.

SYNOPSIS:

Hunter and Trisha Wang, like the majority of their classmates, are trying to balance AP classes, Ivy League applications, numerous extracurriculars, and tumultuously juicy social lives, all while living in their affluent, suburban bubble.

Will Hunter get into Stanford and still be able to maintain his relationship with the “it girl” Sierra Jones? Will Trisha find love with outsider Ray Martinez and figure out what’s going on with her influencer best friend, Pamela Shah? Will billionaire newcomer Jack Zhou figure out how to fit in? And who exactly is The Stranger?

Welcome to Winchester High, a prestigious college preparatory school where students live seemingly perfect, privileged lives.


Goodreads | Book Depository | IndieBound


Rep: Chinese-American author, protagonists, and characters; Asian and BIPOC cast; queer characters

Content Warnings: unplanned pregnancy; racism and xenophobia; homophobia; loss of a loved one; drug and substance use; bullying; physical and psychological abuse

tl;dr: Do I recommend this book?


MY RATING: ★★★★★


In short: eat the rich. They have some delicious stories to tell.

This is the sort of high-school drama I’ve been searching for all of my life.

Continue reading “Amity, Affluence, and AP Exams: A Review of Not THAT Rich”

Your Mom Will Hold Your Red Envelopes For You 🧧: 12 Books (by Asian Authors) That Feature Lunar New Year

恭禧發財! 새해 복 많이 받으세요! Chúc Mừng Năm Mới! Kung Hei Fat Choi! Lo Sar Bzang!

Happy Lunar New Year, dear traveler! Welcome to the Year of the Ox, a lunar animal that symbolizes diligence, patience, and hard work. 🐂 For those of you who are unfamiliar with this holiday, Lunar New Year commemorates the new cycle of the lunar calendar. It is typically observed in February by people in nations across Southeast and East Asia (and by Asian diaspora worldwide!) — from Mongolia to Indonesia to Taiwan to the Philippines to Tibet and beyond. (Other Asian countries, such as Thailand and Japan, celebrate their New Year’s Days on different dates.)

So many beautiful, diverse customs characterize the New Year. (Some of which I have mentioned before on my blog!) Many countries share customs, and others have unique customs of their own.

To name a few:

TibetThe Tibetan Lunar New Year, Losar, involves two main parts: a farewell to the negativity of the past and a welcoming of the fortune to come.
VietnamOne Tết tradition includes Dựng Cây Nêu, or the raising of a New Year Tree. The tree is a marker for ancestors’ spirits that travel back from the afterlife to celebrate the New Year.
South KoreaSeollal lasts three days and is a time for family gatherings. During Seollal festivities, families eat food such as tteokguk to symbolize beginning the new year with a clean mind and body.
SingaporeSingapore’s Lunar New Year is influenced by its multicultural population. On the seventh day of the New Year, loved ones gather to toss up the ingredients of raw fish salad, bringing in good luck, in a custom called lo hei.
ThailandSongkran, which begins on April 13, includes an epic water fight. Celebrators also ferry sand to Buddhist temples, which is meant to replenish the sand that has been carried away on the soles of shoes throughout the previous year.
CambodiaThe Cambodian New Year starts on April 14. Moha Sangkran, the first day of the New Year, inaugurates the New Angels who will watch over the world in the months to come. A ceremony called Pithi Srang Preah, which occurs on Leung Sakk, the third day of the New Year, involves giving special showers to Buddha statues.
MongoliaOn Tsagaan Sar, which means “white moon” in Mongolian, the hostess of a Mongolia household throws the contents of a cup of tea with milk in all directions, offering it to the gods. Celebrants often visit their entire families on this day.
MyanmarKicking off on April 13, Thingyan festivities include the nga hlut pwe, or fish-releasing ceremony, in which participants rescue fish from drying lakes, then free them into larger bodies of water, bidding them, “I release you once, you release me ten times.”
MalaysiaOn Penang Island in Malaysia, the Kek Lok Si Temple is covered with millions of colorful lamps and lights to salute the new year. In Kuala Lumpur, fireworks and music fill the air.
PhilippinesIn the Philippines, families eat tikoy, or New Year’s cake, which symbolizes familial unity, as well as pancit, noodles that signify a long life. Celebrants light fireworks and bolster this noise and cheer with horns and cooking pots.
IndonesiaDuring Imlek, families visit the Sikunir Hill in Central Java for the One Thousand-Lantern Festival, releasing a thousand lanterns into the sky. The roads from Jalan Slamet Riyadi to Purwosari to Gladag are closed for Car Free Night so that the New Year can be welcomed.
LaosFrom April 14 to 16, Pi Mai in Luang Prabang of northern Laos includes a parade in Prabang Buddha is carried on a golden palanquin. In a beauty contest called Nang Sangkhane, seven contestants, representing the seven daughters of King Kabinlaphom, compete for a beauty-queen crown.
Hong KongIn Hong Kong, people can visit the Wishing Tree at Lam Tsuen, tie a wish to an orange and a piece of string, and throw it high into the tree, hoping for their wishes to come tree in the New Year.
TaiwanThe Taiwanese Lunar New Year involves games of mahjong, delicious meals with family members, and hanging spring couplets to the front doors of homes.

(Feel free to correct me if there are any inaccuracies in the events I outlined above, or if there is anything else I can include. 🙌🏼 I’d be more than happy to add to this list!)

I absolutely love Lunar New Year! Here in the states, my friends and I always look forward to good food (so much food!) and red envelopes (which our parents will hold for us until we are older, for investment 🙈). There’s always such a lovely sense of community whenever Lunar New Year rolls around. I am filled with a renewed sense of optimism and hope.

To celebrate this momentous day, here are twelve (a lucky number for 2021!) books that feature/contain Lunar New Year in their stories! I will include four children’s books, three middle-grade books, two young-adult books, and three adult books. 💌

Continue reading “Your Mom Will Hold Your Red Envelopes For You 🧧: 12 Books (by Asian Authors) That Feature Lunar New Year”

Memory is a Flood: A Review of The Deep

Greetings, traveler. It’s Black History Month! During every month of the year, I will be featuring an array of amazing works by Black authors (as all readers and bloggers should) via rec lists and book reviews. Let’s always celebrate the incredible beauty of diverse stories!

Today, we’ll be diving into the breathtaking world of The Deep by Rivers Solomon, a novella inspired by the song of the same name, written by Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes of Clipping (one of my new favorite hip-hop groups. Their album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is so good).

SYNOPSIS:

Yetu holds the memories for her people — water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners — who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one — the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.

Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities — and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.

Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past — and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity — and own who they really are.


Goodreads | Book Depository | IndieBound


Rep: African, non-binary author and characters; African protagonists, characters, and setting; sapphic and queer protagonist and characters; intersex character

Content Warnings: animal death; grief and trauma; slavery and themes of slavery; death of loved ones; self-harm and injury; attempted suicide; hallucinations; the aftermath of war

tl;dr: Do I recommend this book?

Image result for yes fish image

MY RATING: ★★★★★

This is my first five-star rating on this blog! Hooray!


Our mothers were pregnant African women

Thrown overboard while crossing the Atlantic Ocean on slave ships

We were born breathing water as we did in the womb

We built our home on the sea floor

Unaware of the two-legged surface dwellers

Until their world came to destroy ours

With cannons, they searched for oil beneath our cities

Their greed and recklessness forced our uprising

Tonight, we remember.

Traveler, what do you remember?

Continue reading “Memory is a Flood: A Review of The Deep”

The 69 Books I Read in 2020

Nice. 

Happy February, traveler!

Consider this a companion piece to my YouTube video, I read 69 books in 2020 🎏, attached right underneath this paragraph! The post you see before you isn’t one of my normal blog posts; it’s more of an aggregation of the books I mention in that video, along with promotion links, representation notes, and content warnings. 

Want to know whether I recommend these books? Do you want to know my one-star and five-star reads? Which were my favorite reads of the year?

Watch to find out! 😉 And subscribe to my channel for more fun content, if you would like!

Welcome to my 2020 reading wrap-up! I read quite a salacious number of books, and I’m so excited to share them all with you, dear traveler. Each book will be listed as it appears in the video!

Are you ready?

Let us depart on this journey!

Continue reading “The 69 Books I Read in 2020”

Rubble You’ll Find in a Junkyard: A Review of Cinder

It’s great to see you, traveler! For today’s review, we’re surveying the sphere of Cinder, the first installment of the Lunar Chronicles Series by Marissa Meyer, the first novel I read in 2021 C.E. — and my first one-star review of the year. This ought to be a tendentious review!

Let’s do this!

Amazon.com: Cinder: Book One of the Lunar Chronicles (The Lunar Chronicles,  1) (9781250768889): Meyer, Marissa: Books

SYNOPSIS:

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless Lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl… Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg.

She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.


Rep: cluttered Asian-inspired world; Asian-coded characters

Content Warnings: blood and death; xenophobia and discrimination; non-consensual medical experimentation; needles; illness and plague; emotional abuse

tl;dr: Do I recommend this book?

Not really! (Thus my exclusion of promotional links!)


MY RATING: ★

Ralph In Danger - Meme Template and Creator

I know there’s a lot of love for Cinder — its aggregated 4.14-star rating on Goodreads is indicative of that. This review is by no means a charge on the author (though I do mention the author a few times below) or the series, nor do I intend to disparage your affection towards this book if you enjoyed it. It’s awesome if you like Cinder! I’m glad you do.

My opinions do not and should not reflect the opinions of others. With reference to my discussion of Asian cultures in this review, I do not and should represent Asian people’s feelings about this book. (Nor do I or should I represent Asian people’s feelings period!) These are simply my thoughts on the novel and my personal experience reading it, as well as a few other notes I had.

With that being said:

What a mess!

Continue reading “Rubble You’ll Find in a Junkyard: A Review of Cinder”