Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan – Book Review

Buy it on AMAZON

☆ ☆ ☆

What initially drew my attention to this book was its cover. The colours and artwork were stunning! As well as this, I’d read Brittany at The Book Guru’s review and knew that this had to be up next on my TBR. With a premise that promised a sapphic romance, a seedy King and darker themes of sexual abuse, Girls of Paper and Fire sounded like a gritty fantasy that would perfectly match my mood. Unfortunately, while most aspects of this book were great there were a few significant issues I had with it that severely down-graded my rating.

Blurb:

In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.


Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

Pros:

Ngan’s writing style had a brilliant flow and pace. The dialogue seemed realistic, if only a bit too modern for the chosen setting. I really adored how she went in to depth on the other eight Paper Caste characters who were also selected to be the King’s concubines. Lei’s strength and genuine kindness as a character made the abuse she suffered so heart-wrenching to read.

The world-building in GOPAF was extensive and painted a vivid picture of an Asian-inspired culture that had been forced in to segregation of castes by a prejudiced society, mostly spurred on by the assumption that Moon’s were the strongest caste as they represented the King’s race. Ngan’s rich description of the setting and inclusion of the Kingdom’s history, associated with the events that occurred to Lei, completely immersed me in her story. I was enthralled and transported to this world in the manner that only a well-written fantasy novel can achieve.

A few of the side characters, like The Wolf and Blue really caught my attention and interest. Their pasts were clouded in mystery and added intrigue to the story. They could have been written in their designated roles as blindly loyal followers of the King but Ngan’s exploration of their motives and conflicting loyalty brought their characters to life. Despite their actions, I couldn’t help but sympathise with the hard situations they were put in. I would have liked to have seen more exploration of their futures but perhaps that will happen in the second book?

Cons:

Oh boy. I knew going in to this novel that things would get dark. I mean, you don’t sign up for a book that openly states the inclusion of sexual abuse to minors and expect it to be a light read. That said, since this was classified as a YA novel I had expected quite a lot more discretion on the sensitive matter than was presented. Bearing in mind that I’m familiar with scenes like this from the adult genre, I was able to finish the story mostly intact however, youths reading the YA genre can be as young as 12 and I definitely would not recommend this book to a 12 year old. Although, maybe that’s just me.

I also had a hard time believing the chemistry between Lei and her love interest (I don’t want to spoil anything). It seemed like they went from hardly knowing one another to being in love. A few kind acts, which weren’t all that extreme considering the circumstances they were under, were suddenly enough to form a strong and long-lasting connection between them. While I would believe this to be the perfect basis for the development of a friendship, the romantic chemistry just didn’t seem there for me.

// have you read Girls of Paper and Fire? what were your thoughts on it? //

Jen

WWW Wednesday – #5

Hello lovelies!

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This meme was originally hosted by A Daily Rhythm but was revived by Sam from Taking on a World of WordsIt’s a place to talk about the books you’ve been reading, plan to read and have read. I don’t usually keep track of my reading, except for my Goodreads Challenge, but I’ve found this meme to be really helpful with keeping me on track.

To take part all you have to do is answer the following questions:

What are you currently reading?

What have you recently finished reading?

What are you going to read next?

Currently Reading

I’ve SOMEHOW managed to over-commit myself to ARCs and my goal this week is to get through as many of them as possible! I’m currently reading three great books right now. I enjoy changing it up every couple of chapters and these ones pair so well together!

I’m in a bit of a historical mood so Realm of Knights and Hunting for a Highlander satisfy this perfectly. I requested these ARCs because they sounded so good but I have to admit I’m genuinely surprised by HOW GOOD they’re actually turning out to be. To be Taught, If Fortunate is a delightful reprieve for when I’m feeling like something more futuristic.

Recently Finished

This was a pretty packed week of reading for me! Two of these are graphic novels and were super quick reads though… so it looks more efficient than it was haha. I ADORED HeartStopper, Nimona and A Lie for a Lie. I enjoyed reading A Curse so Dark and Lonely (mostly) and am still (slowly) working my way through the Chronicles of Nick series. I was quite disappointed with Everything, Everything though so that was probably my low point of the week.

HeartStopper Review
Nimona Review
A Lie for a Lie Review
Everything, Everything Review
A Curse so Dark and Lonely Review

Reading Next

Coming up, I’ve got another ARC with The Earl’s Christmas Pearl and then a Buddy Read with Ngoc from Nish and Ngoc’s Book Nook for These Broken Stars. Lastly, I’m keen to give These Rebel Waves a try. The cover is what initially caught my attention but I’ve also read reviews on its world building being phenomenal so I’m excited for that!

// what are you currently reading? have you read any of the books on my list? //

Jen

Most Anticipated Books of Spring

Happy Spring!

I know it seems like almost everyone is experiencing the start of Autumn but for us folks Down Under we’re gearing up for the start of the SUNNY SEASON. My life is soon going to be filled with weekends away camping, kayaking and endless attempts trying to successfully stand up paddle board. My balance is TERRIBLE. But I love giving it a try anyway! It’s also going to be spent reading on the beach and sneaking books with me whenever my family decides it’s a ‘good idea’ to see the sunshine.

In anticipation of this, here are the books I’m most looking forward to:

Full Disclosure – In a community that isn’t always understanding, an HIV-positive teen must navigate fear, disclosure, and radical self-acceptance when she falls in love–and lust–for the first time. Powerful and uplifting, Full Disclosure will speak to fans of Angie Thomas and Nicola Yoon. All I need to say is YES. Yes, yes, yes!

The Last True Poets of the Sea – When the Lyric sank off the coast of Maine, Fidelia Larkin swam to shore, fell in love and founded Lyric, Maine, the town Violet and Sam Larkin return to every summer. When Sam attempts to take his own life and is in hospital for treatment, Violet is haunted by the near loss. She decides to find her family’s missing piece – the lost shipwreck. Desperate to make amends, Violet embarks on a wildly ambitious mission: locate the Lyric, lain hidden in a watery grave for over a century. I can’t wait to try this hauntingly beautiful and emotional story!

The Deep – 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. She will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past—and about the future of her people.

The Starless Sea – Zachary Ezra Rawlins discovers a mysterious book that tells tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors as well as… his own childhood. Bewildered and desperate to make sense of the book, Zachary’s curiosity leads him down an adventurous path to an ancient library beneath the Earth’s surface. A HIDDEN LIBRARY. Does it get better than that???

The Crier’s War – After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will. Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s deathby killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier. The positive reviews on this book caught my attention and I CANNOT WAIT to finally give it a try!

Winterwood – Nora Walker shares a special connection with the woods. When Oliver Huntsman, the boy who disappeared, suddenly appears in the woods with no memory of the time he’s been missing Nora is left to figure out what happened to the boy she cares so deeply about. This sounds like such an awesomely suspenseful, romantic story. I can’t wait!

Where Winter Finds You – TREZ!! He is FINALLY, FINALLY going to get his happily every after. It’s only been (what feels like) fifty books since his first story but honestly the Shadow deserves a HEA after all that he’s been through. This might be yet another Black Dagger Brotherhood book but I’ll read them happily until I die and never complain!

There you have it! Are you planning on reading any of these? What books are you looking forward to for the rest of Spring/Autumn?

Jen

A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer – Book Review

Buy it on AMAZON
☆ ☆ ☆ STARS

For those of you who may have tuned in to my posts this last week, you may have noticed that ACSDAL is a book that I’ve been going up and down over. First I hated it and put it down. In a fit of stubbornness, I picked it up again and soon got enveloped in its subtle dark tones and great illness rep for Cerebral Palsy. I was enjoying it!

Then came the ending. I can only say that my feelings left over from ACSDAL are: slightly angry, frustrated and yearning for an alternate scenario in which I could change everything that happens after 75%. So be prepared… this is going to be an up and down review!

Characters:

HARPER – Was such an amazing heroine. She was strong in spirit and will, while still being inordinately kind and loyal considering her circumstances. Harper truly embodied what disability rep should be about in books. There was no hiding her illness. Rather, ACSDAL painted her as a heroine who truly challenged her limitations while embracing all that she was. Her illness was a part of her and always would be.

RHEN – Was my least favourite character. Honestly, characters for me are a huge factor in my enjoyment of a book. I don’t necessarily have to like them as people but I do generally need to respect their POV or see a good character arc. I felt like this was missing with Rhen. He did have some development, don’t get me wrong. But it seemed like he was CONSTANTLY doubting himself. Even when everyone was rooting for him and things were finally going his way. I honestly don’t think the ending could have been possible if he was doing things alone. I can’t say the same about Harper or Grey.

GREY – My absolute favourite character. I’m HOPING and PRAYING that he’s going to get a bigger part in the next book. I really, really wanted to see something happen between him and Harper. THE SPARKS WERE THERE. I’m going to give the next book a try and hope that good things happen between them!

SIDE CHARACTERS – There were a host of great side characters in this book that made me adore Emberfall. From Freya to Jameison to Zo. They were resilient in the face of Emberfall’s slow downfall and they had become stronger for it. I loved how they banded together and were willing to risk it all for the sake of freedom and prosperity.

What I loved: I loved that this book had some pretty epic characters with solid story arcs. I’m a complete sucker for that! I also loved the disability rep with Harper’s Cerebral Palsy and how this wasn’t ignored, patronised or made her appear ‘lacking’. It was dealt with respect and embraced as something that made Harper more resilient in life. I also thought that there was a decent amount of action in this story from about the halfway point onwards. There were some surprising moments which I hadn’t been expecting but enjoyed immensely!

What I disliked: Oh boy. The whole first half pretty much. RHEN. If Harper and Grey weren’t so damn great I’d have DNF this book at 30%. The pacing seemed a bit off in the first half and things were a bit too slow for me. I have to admit though, I’m not usually someone who is a fan of retellings so this one is probably on me. For those of you who like, or at least don’t mind, retellings this would probably be a great read!

Overall, I mostly enjoyed this book once I really got in to it. I disliked the ending and its predictability since I was anticipating something more original and inventive. Despite this, Harper and Grey are phenomenal and I’ll check out the next book just for them!

// have you read ACSDAL? what were your thoughts on it? //

Jen

Top 5 Saturday: Over 500 Pages

Hi all!

Welcome to another Top 5 Saturday Reads meme. It was created by the lovely Mandy over at Devouring Books as a way to share books that we would love to read. Since my TBR is a bottomless pit, I didn’t have any issue trying to think of 5 books… but it was hard to pick ONLY FIVE books. There are just so many I want to read! If only I had the time…

This week’s topic is: Over 500 Pages. I love long books, provided their action is paced well, and can’t wait to share with you some of the ones I’m mostly looking forward to!

Here they are:

I’m currently on a fantasy/SF kick (usually I’m romance all the way) so these three books are near the top of my TBR. I managed to snag them all in a recent library haul so that was some good luck!

I’ve been wanting to try Armentrout’s fantasy books for a few years now. I really enjoyed her romance books Wait For You and Frigid, so I’m hoping Storm and Fury matches up to my enjoyment of her previous writing.

I’ve been a fan of Kristin Cashore for a VERY LONG time and Graceling is one of my all-time favourite books EVER. I never got around to reading Bitterblue but after reading about her beginning I’m so excited to see where she ends up!

If you don’t know how much I loved Illuminae then you should read my post here that basically states why I think it’s 5-star material. I’m VERY EXCITED to continue on with the Illuminae Files journey as a recently converted Kristoff and Kaufman fan!

As a part of my fantasy kick, The Priory of the Orange Tree caught my attention when it made waves with (most often) positive reviews. I’m keen to give it a try but have been a bit apprehensive up until now because at 848 pages this thing is a FRIGGING TOMB. But I mean… that cover though. It’s STUNNING. There’s no way I’m gonna miss out on that!

Lastly, I’ve chosen The Poppy War. This is a book that I’ve considered reading a few times now. I was leaning towards the ‘give it a miss’ pile as I’ve heard it has some quite dark tones. That is, until I read a review by Idil from A Bookworm’s Chapters. Honestly, it’s one of the most detailed and well-written reviews I’ve ever read. You should seriously check it out. Even if you have already read this book. I’m sure you’d learn something anyway as Idil goes in to the historical influences behind the story and what it’s message really suggests.

// have you read any of the books on my list? what were your thoughts on them? //

Jen

First Line Fridays – #5

Hi all!

Welcome to another First Lines Fridays! I’m excited to share my chosen book with you this week – I think some of you should be able to guess it. This is a weekly meme for book lovers to judge a book by its opening lines rather than by its cover, its author or its prestige. I saw this on Mani’s Book Corner but was originally hosted by Wandering Words.

Rules:

  1. Choose a book from your shelves/ current read.
  2. Open the book to the first page.
  3. Copy the first line on the page, making sure you don’t give away the book title.
  4. Reveal the book.

First Lines:

Once there was a little girl who played her music for a little boy in the wood.

She was small and dark, he was tall and fair, and the two of them made a fancy pair as they danced together, dancing to the music the little girl heard in her head.

Her grandmother had told her to beware the wolves that prowled the wood, but the little girl knew the little boy was not dangerous, even if he was the king of the goblins.

Do you recognise which book these lyrical, enchanting words come from?

This week’s book is: Wintersong by S. Jae – Jones

Buy it on: AMAZON

The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride….

All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind and spirit and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesel can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.

But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds–and the mysterious man who rules it–she soon faces an impossible decision. With time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

Dark, romantic, and powerful, Wintersong will sweep you away into a world you won’t soon forget.

This is a book I heard about a little while ago from Emer at A Little Haze Book Blog‘s review on it. I was intrigued and when I saw the book at the library this week I just had to snag it. Here’s hoping it’s a fun read!
Have you read this? Share your thoughts down below!

Jen

Throwback Thursday – Talon by Julie Kagawa

Buy it on AMAZON
☆ ☆ ☆ THREE STARS

Talon was a book that took me by surprise and then hurled me down a VERY LONG and PREDICTABLE rabbit hole and yet, I STILL ENJOYED reading it. Which is really strange as I generally dislike books that are easily predictable and seem pointlessly long. My love for character-driven stories was definitely a perk in reading this. If that’s not your thing, the middle of this book may lag a little. The saving grace for Talon were the characters and their dynamics. There was just something so appealing about them. So, my true reaction to this book is one of slight disbelief and grudging respect. Kagawa can spin a line and keep you interested… even if it’s something you’ve read many times before!

The story follows dragon cructchmates (AKA twins) Ember and Dante Hill, two teenagers apart of the secret Talon organisation, as they assimilate among human society. Their training at Talon had been focused on learning how to survive by blending in amongst humans in order to avoid their merciless enemies, The Order of St. George. St. George are constantly on the look out for dragons to slay, as they view them akin to murderous beasts. The ensuing story of Ember and Dante’s survival when members of St. George start sniffing around their new town is one full of action, drama and unexpected loyalties.

I could imagine this story being turned in to a popular Netflix show. Hot characters. Sand. Sun. Secret organisation. Corruption and the temptation to go rogue. It has that teenage angst flare deeply inserted in to the premise which aims to gain your approval in a similar vein to Ember and Dante having to insert themselves in the popular group to ‘assimilate’ as per Talon’s instructions. Is anyone else imagining Archie and Cheryl from Riverdale as Dante and Ember (not in a romantic way of course! Just their appearance)? Let the teen drama commence!

While there were a lot of predictable and unoriginal aspects of this story, I still enjoyed the reading experience overall. Ember was a feisty, independent and compassionate character that was easy to like. Her vulnerable side and confusion at the hinted corruption in Talon was interesting to read about. She was a very well-written and flawed character. Kagawa managed to capture my heart with almost all of the characters. Even those that weren’t overly likeable. They were still interesting and that, along with great dynamics between them, made up for a lack in the story’s originality.

Besides for originality, I also had an issue with the story’s pacing. This book was near 500 pages, which I don’t usually mind but it felt like it could have been condensed in to a fast-paced and impactful 300 pages. The world building was done well, despite the fact that it followed some well-known tropes. It was easy to imagine the places, events and get an understanding of the intricacies surrounding St. George, Talon and the Rogue dragons.

Overall, this book was still an enjoyable read and I’m keen to see where the series leads in the sequel. Talon finished off with a cliff-hanger of sorts, so there are still quite a few questions unanswered. One namely being the outcome of the budding love triangle that slowly began to emerge in this story. I’m looking forward to trying out Rogue next to see where it goes!

// have you read Talon or any other books by Kagawa? what were your thoughts on them? //

Jen

WWW Wednesday #4

Hello lovelies!

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This meme was originally hosted by A Daily Rhythm but was revived by Sam from Taking on a World of WordsIt’s a place to talk about the books you’ve been reading, plan to read and have read. I don’t usually keep track of my reading, except for my Goodreads Challenge, but I’ve found this meme to be really helpful with keeping me on track.

To take part all you have to do is answer the following questions:

What are you currently reading?

What have you recently finished reading?

What are you going to read next?

Currently Reading

I’m absolutely ADORING graphic novels right now… they’re so fun and easy to read while still packing the same punch. It’s a wonder I didn’t get in to reading them sooner! Heartstopper is adorably sweet so far and I CANNOT WAIT for the ending. I’ve already requested Volume 2 at my library as I want to soak up as much of Nick and Charlie’s cute romance as I can…

I’m really enjoying Infamous and Nimona as well. I’ve been obsessed with the Chronicles of Nick lately and Infamous is the best one yet. While the previous ones have had a few issues here and there… this one hasn’t. The characters are so well developed and the pace is INTENSE. I’m lovin’ it!

Recently Finished

This was a VERY SLOW reading week for me. I’ve had a few things on and books sadly went to the way side. I really enjoyed these three though! The Poet X was captivating and heart-breaking. It’s unflinching honesty really caught my attention!

Talon and Invincible were really good reads, too. I had a few issues with them, which I’ll explain more in their reviews. Despite the issues, most of them were minor and I’m keen to see where their stories lead from here!

Reading Next

In light of this past week’s reading slump, I’m only selecting three book for this following week. My ARC of the week is A Lie for a Lie which I’m keen to try as Helena Hunting is an awesome author! I’ve heard so much about Everything, Everything and have been excited to try this book for a long time. Plus, the cover is GORGEOUS!

I picked up A Curse so Dark and Lonely a week or two ago but got quite bored and ended up putting it down. I think I’m in a better space to give it another try this week though, so hopefully my interest in it improves!

// have you read any of these books? what did you think of them? //

Jen

WWW Wednesday! #3

Hello lovelies!

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This meme was originally hosted by A Daily Rhythm but was revived by Sam from Taking on a World of WordsIt’s a place to talk about the books you’ve been reading, plan to read and have read. I don’t usually keep track of my reading, except for my Goodreads Challenge, but I’ve found this meme to be really helpful with keeping me on track.

To take part all you have to do is answer the following questions:

What are you currently reading?

What have you recently finished reading?

What are you going to read next?

Currently Reading

I’m currently ONLY SLIGHTLY obsessed with the Chronicles of Nick series. This is one that I have been putting off for years and that very nearly made it on to my Top Ten Books I’m Avoiding List except for the fact that I was FINALLY reading it while making the list, ironically. As a hardcore fan of the Dark Hunters series I wasn’t immediately convinced in giving a YA version a try (hence the LONG wait) but I’m so glad that I finally caved! I have a feeling I’m going to devour this entire series in less than a week.

As for The Poet X, this is part of my Hogwarts House Battle Readathon as my Alchemy Class as it was recommended to me by the lovely Hannah over at Alpha-Beta-Hannah. I’m also giving Talon a try because I’ve been meaning to try Kagawa for a long time now (seriously my TBR is like a never-ending pit) and DRAGONS. Who could resist??

Recently Finished

This has been a pretty average week of reading for me. There were some highs (Illuminae, Infinity and Aurora Rising) and some that weren’t all I had hoped they’d be (Catwoman and Ellie and the Harp Maker). I did manage to finish an ARC this week though, so that’s always a tick in the pro column. Plus, I finished Illuminae which counted towards my Hogwarts House Battle Readathon for Muggle Studies (a hyped book). Reviews on these to come soon!

Reading Next

So if you hadn’t read the first para and rather just skimmed the pics (I’m guilty of this occasionally!) you should know that I’m currently addicted to The Chronicles of Nick. I’ve also been slowly dipping my toes in to the water of graphic novels (see my review of Mooncakes) and I couldn’t resist picking up Heartstopper when I saw it at the library this week. It looks so cute!

Lastly, I’m keen to give The Cactus a try. Partially because it’s a Reese’s Book Club choice and also because the premise and cover look so interesting. I mean it’s a romance/contemporary called CACTUS. That screams of angsty goodness. I can’t wait!

// have you read any of these books? what are your thoughts on them? //

Jen

First Lines Fridays – #3

Hi all!

Welcome to another First Lines Fridays! I’m excited to share my chosen book with you this week – I think some of you should be able to guess it. This is a weekly meme for book lovers to judge a book by its opening lines rather than by its cover, its author or its prestige. I saw this on Mani’s Book Corner but was originally hosted by Wandering Words.

Rules:

  1. Choose a book from your shelves/ current read.
  2. Open the book to the first page.
  3. Copy the first line on the page, making sure you don’t give away the book title.
  4. Reveal the book.

First Lines:

There is blood under my fingernails. I wonder how many of my people I’ve killed this time.

I thrust my hands in to the barrel beside the stables. The ice-cold water bites at my skin but the blood clings.

I shouldn’t bother, because it should all be gone in an hour anyway, but I hate this. The blood. The not knowing.

Do you recognise which book these bloody, guilt-ridden words come from?

This week’s book is: A Curse so Dark and Lonely

Buy it on: AMAZON

Fall in love, break the curse. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s pulled into a magical world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom. Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin. 

This is the book I’m reading next on my TBR and the intro has me intrigued! I’m not usually a fan of Beauty and the Beast retellings but this might be the exception.
Have you read this? Share your thoughts down below!

Jen