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”

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”

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”

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”

Sharpened Blades in a Gilded World: A Review of These Violent Delights

Welcome back, traveler! Let’s discuss one of the most anticipated debuts of the decade so far — the silver-medal novel in my recent data-gathering book compilation, The 20 Best Diverse Releases of 2020, According to the Internet Book Community.

Amazon.com: These Violent Delights (9781534457690): Gong, Chloe: Books

SYNOPSIS:

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang — a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love… and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns — and grudges — aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.


Goodreads | Book Depository | Indigo


Rep: Chinese author; Chinese setting, protagonist, and characters; transgender side character; Korean side character; queer side characters

Content Warnings: substance use; blood, gore, and violence; explosion; death, murder, and loss of a loved one; self-mutilation while possessed; insects

tl;dr: Do I recommend this book?


MY RATING: ★★★

Note to self: Stop getting over-hyped over new releases! You will only feel pain!

Don’t get me wrong, traveler. I adore so much about this book. It is easily one of my favorite reads of 2020 — the last book I read in that year! — and the praise for it is incredibly deserved. (I’m right there with that praise. Do you see me standing over there? That’s me, shrieking commendations. I’m cheering so hard for this novel.)

These Violent Delights was tightly-woven. Chloe Gong is a talented writer, and she crafted this novel so skillfully. I will support her writing career with enthusiasm.

But, like. My dear traveler… this book would be stellar if it simply were not this book. Certain facets of These Violent Delights were marvelous, but I wish they weren’t trapped in the plot and premise they were given.

Continue reading “Sharpened Blades in a Gilded World: A Review of These Violent Delights”

Yee-Haw, This Wasn’t It: A Review of Six-Gun Snow White (ft. Eight Great Books by Indigenous Authors)

Hello again, traveler! (Scroll to the images of a fluffy Highland cows divider for the rec list! In fact, read the rec list first! But only if you want.)

Six-Gun Snow White | Book by Catherynne M. Valente, Charlie Bowater |  Official Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster

SYNOPSIS:

Forget the dark, enchanted forest. Picture instead a masterfully evoked Old West where you are more likely to find coyotes as the seven dwarves. Insert into this scene a plain-spoken, appealing narrator who relates the history of our heroine’s parents — a Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. Although her mother’s life ended as hers began, so begins a remarkable tale: equal parts heartbreak and strength. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child. After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have. Filled with fascinating glimpses through the fabled looking glass and a close-up look at hard living in the gritty gun-slinging West, this is an utterly enchanting story… at once familiar and entirely new. 

MY RATING: ★★

“Saint Michael doesn’t question why when the Big Dog says git.” (I just enjoyed this line.)

I picked up this book from my school’s online library because it didn’t have a wait time, hehe.

Catherynne M. Valente is (probably; this position often fluctuates! I’m more of Ken Liu stan nowadays) my favorite writer. Her works are some of the wildest rides I’ve ever caught hold of.  Six-Gun Snow White is no exception.

I’m still giving it two stars, though.

Hear me out!

Continue reading “Yee-Haw, This Wasn’t It: A Review of Six-Gun Snow White (ft. Eight Great Books by Indigenous Authors)”

Words Like Snow and Steel: A Winterglass Review

Hello, traveler!

Let’s take a peek at Winterglass, a novella written by Benjanun Sriduangkaew. It’s the first installment of the Her Pitiless Command series, an epic fantasy lesbian retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, which takes place in a world based on Southeast and South Asian cultures where the primary form of magic-technology is powered by the dead.

Synopsis:

The city-state Sirapirat once knew only warmth and monsoon. When the Winter Queen conquered it, she remade the land in her image, turning Sirapirat into a country of snow and unending frost. But an empire is not her only goal. In secret, she seeks the fragments of a mirror whose power will grant her deepest desire.

At her right hand is General Lussadh, who bears a mirror shard in her heart, as loyal to winter as she is plagued by her past as a traitor to her country. Tasked with locating other glass-bearers, she finds one in Nuawa, an insurgent who’s forged herself into a weapon that will strike down the queen.

To earn her place in the queen’s army, Nuawa must enter a deadly tournament where the losers’ souls are given in service to winter. To free Sirapirat, she is prepared to make sacrifices: those she loves, herself, and the complicated bond slowly forming between her and Lussadh.

If the splinter of glass in Nuawa’s heart doesn’t destroy her first.


My Rating: ★★★

(A rather unrelated note: have you ever seen a more beautiful cover, dear traveler? Its artist, Anna Dittman, is an absolute legend!)

Maybe I just don’t have enough brain cells to understand this book properly (there are no wrinkles up in my cranium, yo. Up there, it’s as smooth as the rolling sea), but I must say: Winterglass was rather difficult to dig through!

 

Continue reading “Words Like Snow and Steel: A Winterglass Review”