Review: Girls of Paper and Fire

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

* I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.

The Girls is set in a world where there are three castes, Moon (reigning and demons), Paper (lower and human) and then Steel, a mix of the first two. Every year, eight girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. Lei is girl number nine. She’s forced back into the very place her mother was forced into years ago. Slowly, she learns the way of the palace, honing her skills to benefit the king’s comfort only. Until she falls in love.

Girls of Paper and Fire was surprising. I really enjoyed it a lot. Ngan’s storytelling skills are beyond amazing. It was so tense, and her writing is so elegant and smooth. The stakes are high in this, and I was quickly hooked from the first page. The vivid worldbuilding where Ngan creates this devastating but beautiful world and created characters that weave so well into it, and in all makes it an enchanting but compelling read.

I think the most powerful thing of this book is its message of self-empowerment and discovering one’s self while discussing classism and the objectification of women. Girls show the subtle way of how Ikhara, the fictional society, allows misogyny to flourish and aides its abuser by only viewing women as nothing but lesser beings. The Moon King is a disgusting man who uses his position of power to act out violence towards anyone around him. These girls groomed to believe they’re doing something good slowly come together and unravel the trauma they’re facing. Not everyone is exactly happy to be here. The strength of the friendship between all the Paper girls is beautiful – they grow into even stronger women and reclaim themselves and decide what they’re capable of.

Despite the moments of slowness, I would advise you to watch out for this new YA fantasy birthed from Asian mythology and Ngan’s own experiences from growing up in Malaysia. It’s a dazzling and immersive read with a pulse-racing conclusion that will leave you wanting more.


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Content and warnings for rape, sexual assault, slavery, sex trafficking, loss of a loved one, murder, captivity, torture, branding, violence, physical abuse, graphic animal death, and war themes. (More to be added.)

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Review: How She Likes It

Review: How She Likes It

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

* I received an ARC of this book from the author. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.

Isabel Alfonso is next in line to be CEO of her family-owned company. But she’s also risking her own business to take it. There are a hundred things that need to be done before the deal is sealed and Isabel is in dire need of an assistant. It’s not her fault the first person in the door happens to be the same man she had a one night stand with the very night before. Single dad Adam Sevilla is just going by, raising his daughter while also allowing her to reconnect with her distant mother. 

There’s a lot to this book that I really liked. Isabel is a cool and unapologetic career-focused woman who doesn’t want to risk falling in love because of how it will affect her career. There are mentions of the double standards women face when they’re in the place of a CEO versus a man in the same position. “They were expected to have it all, but just enough that their partners didn’t feel intimidated.” Despite being raised to those closest to her as the enemy, her best relations are with them. She’s very quick-thinking and witty. I would definitely read more of her story if we’re ever given a chance.

Adam is a pretty interesting love interest, a single dad who adores his daughter. He’s continuously facing belittling comments from his ex, who questions his ability to raise their daughter. He really tries to do well by his daughter and is a sickly romantic at heart – with a penchant to quote one too many Star Wars related things. What else do you expect from a man who names his daughter Leia?

Isabel and Adam are two very different people, but they work well together. And so does this story. It’s pacing was well, and it was a relatively fun and enjoyable read that’s body-posi and tackles working against cultural norms. It gets pretty steamy in some moments, not really my thing, but I understand other readers will definitely have a different experience.

I think #romanceclass is something I’ve seen floating around Twitter for ages and Carla mentions it in her acknowledgements, and I finally had the good sense to find out what it means. The good thing is I’ve got a new list of people to read from, bad news for my TBR but we won’t mention that. 


 

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Review: Circe

Review: Circe

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

Madeline Miller creates a new voice in her second novel which follows the life of Circe, daughter of Helios, a goddess born with a human voice. Mocked for her lack of power in a world of Gods, Circe accidentally uncovers a skill that sees her banished forever to the island of Aiaia. She is upset, outcasted forever and alone, Circe turns to take revenge on those who wish to exploit her by transforming any ship of men who enter her island into a herd of pigs. But as time goes by, Circe finds that she can’t escape the world forever.

Miller clearly has a talent in giving a voice to characters not usually heard. I really loved how she reinterpreted the role of Cire. While making nods to other parts of Greek Mythology, Circe is clearly a story of its own, unpeeling the layers of Circe that make her a more substantial person than we see in The Odyssey.

The story of Circe explores the use of power and how it can be easily abused and while Circe’s transmutation power play an essential part so does her transformation as a character as she goes through independence, love and motherhood and how, despite it all, she still had hope. Like in The Song of Achilles, other key figures from Greek mythology are mentioned and also take centre stage without overpowering Circe’s story, including the well-known arrival of Odysseus and how their lives are changed from then on.

This book is thrilling with extreme drama Circe, and despite the constant presence of well-known characters like Zeus and Athena, Circe stands strong and finds her real place in a world where she’s told she’s nothing.

Overall, Miller’s ability to re-present the classics never fails to amaze me. Seven years since TSOA was first published, four years since I had read it, and I can definitely say that Circe was definitely worth the wait.


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Review: The Wrath & the Dawn

Review: The Wrath & the Dawn

Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.5/5)

Some things exist in our lives for but a brief moment. And we must let them go on to light another sky.

Every night the bride of the Caliph of Khorasan is killed. Until Shazi volunteers to outwit and kill the king in revenge for the death of her best friend. In the vein of the original 1001 nights, she holds off her death by telling a story every night the extends onto another.

I think The Wrath and the Dawn started off really well for me. It’s plot really grabbed from the very beginning, and it did exceed my expectations. Ahdieh has a gorgeous writing style that suits this novel’s intriguing plot. There’s a lot of quote-worthy lines that I really liked, but it was a shame I didn’t really feel the connection between them for it to really hit deep. There’s a magic system that I enjoyed but isn’t really introduced fully yet which I hope gets developed in the sequel.

Shahrzad is a great female lead. Her charismatic behaviour and sharp wit was amusing and her bravery had me rooting for her from the very beginning. But that very much drops very soon once you realise she has no idea what she’s going despite the story setting her up as this character that knows what she’s doing. How she managed to fall in love with him was questionable considering her aims. Khalid wasn’t even that great anyway. His mysterious persona wasn’t that interesting enough to want to care for him, I just wanted to know why he killed those girls, not really caring for his character. The background characters were actually my favourites of the plot I feel like we should’ve gotten a bit more background information and set up at the beginning of the novel before we get pushed straight into the story. I find it strange that enjoyed the plot of this book but didn’t enjoy its characters.

The Wrath and the Dawn have its obvious appeal to romance and retelling lovers. Despite its flaws, I did actually quite enjoy reading this book. It’s vibrant setting, and secondary characters are its most significant highlights. With a cliff-hanger like that, I do intend to read the sequel.


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Book Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Book Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

I received an ARC of each book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Set in the fictional world of Orléans, a small number of girls are born with the ability to use magic to create beautiful looks for a dull general population. Camellia and her sister, known as the Belles, have trained their entire lives to be chosen as the Queen’s favourite and responsible for keeping the royal family beautiful.

The world of Orléans is beautiful, a decadent society with a darker history. Everyone is born grey, and it’s the role of the Belles to bring beauty, but it comes with a price. This book is jam-packed with sweet descriptions of a seemly beautiful world until the ugliness leaks out as the story goes on. Clayton’s Orléans is unique and thrilling; while it took a while for it to grip me at first, the ending is where it gets horrific and exciting. A fantasy world means there’s a lot to set up, but once the significant event starts happening, the pace improved.

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Book Review: Dreadnought

Book Review: Dreadnought

Rating: ★★★★☆

* I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.

In a world where superheroes and villains are a regular occurrence, Danny finds herself being the passed the power of Dreadnought when he falls out of the sky and dies right in front of her. The side effects of this transform Danny’s body into what she thought it should be. To Danny, she now looks like the girl she knows she is even if everyone around her says otherwise. Dreadnought is her origin story which follows her first few weeks of superhero living. While trying to juggle her new life, she’s also trying to find the old Dreadnought’s murderer, who is still threatening the streets of New Port City.

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