Leave It To The Butterfly || My Fate According to the Butterfly Blog Tour (Review)

Before Reading:

I first heard of this book when Gail attended Bookworms Unite Year 4. I was super pumped to hear her talk about it while we were featuring new releases. The premise alone sounds interesting enough, and I was all in with reading it come 2019. But when she briefly described the cover, and confirmed that a Filipino girl would be on it, I was more stoked than ever. Honestly I could not ask for more. I’m here for any book that features a Filipino main character. Let’s get to it!

39884772Title: My Fate According to the Butterlfly

Author: Gail D. Villanueva

Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary

ISBN: 133831050X

Date Published: 30th of July 2019

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Buy it on: Amazon | The Book Depository

Add to Goodreads

Summary:

Light and deep, smart and funny, crushing and hopeful all at the same time, My Fate According to the Butterfly will open your eyes to both the world’s potential for magic, and to its harsh realities.

When superstitious Sab sees a giant black butterfly, an omen of death, she knows that she’s doomed! According to legend, she has one week before her fate catches up with her—on her 11th birthday. With her time running out, all she wants is to celebrate her birthday with her entire family. But her sister, Ate Nadine, stopped speaking to their father one year ago, and Sab doesn’t even know why.

If Sab’s going to get Ate Nadine and their father to reconcile, she’ll have to overcome her fears—of her sister’s anger, of leaving the bubble of her sheltered community, of her upcoming doom—and figure out the cause of their rift.

So Sab and her best friend Pepper start spying on Ate Nadine and digging into their family’s past to determine why, exactly, Ate Nadine won’t speak to their father. But Sab’s adventures across Manila reveal truths about her family more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever anticipated.

After Reading:

What a heartwarming read! The dynamic duo that was Sab and Pepper is absolutely delightful to read. Sab’s relationship with Nadine reminded me of my own siblings. Also, one of my parent’s home province was mentioned! I was just brimming with joy when I saw it constantly mentioned. I love this book very much. 😭

As a part of the tour, I received an e-ARC of this book. Huge thanks to Scholastic Press for providing copies for the tour. This does not affect my review and all of the opinions and thoughts reflected here are my own.

My Fate According to the Butterfly is an amazing middle grade novel. Quite in fact, it has become my favorite middle grade novel of all time. It tackles issues prevalent in Philippine society, opening its readers to the realities of the country. But at the same time, it delivers the same issues in a light-hearted manner, centering family and friendship in the core of its tale.

Gail’s writing is simply perfect. I cannot state how much I loved reading along Sab’s perspective. There is a distinct tone in her voice that lets you know that she is young, and there is so much of the world that she has to see. She also perfectly married this voice with a succinct writing style. Aside from that, it is not an easy to explain heavy topics such as drug abuse, the war on drugs, colonial mentality, and racism even for an adult book. But with My Fate According to the Butterfly, it is all in there, all explained in a way that young people can grasp.

As I mentioned earlier, I loved the fact that this book highlighted the importance of family and friendship. Sab was a delightful character to follow along. She is that little sister that you just cannot help but love. With the main premise of this book revolving around her as she thinks she is going to die because she saw a black butterfly, it is wonderful to see a character face the superstitions that the grown-ups have passed on to the next generation. Her inquisitiveness intrigued me, but I also believe that a lot of kids can and will relate to her frustrations and limitations. She’s a cool kid, but her character is also very dynamic and rounded.

Sab is also surrounded by an equal set of rounded characters with distinct personalities, two of which stood out throughout the novel as a counterbalance to Sab. Nadine is very much like a grown-up version of Sab, and her strong and intuitive nature makes her the perfect ate. I personally related to her more, being an ate myself. But like any other ate, there is a wall of respect that comes with her. While she is oftentimes stoic with Sab’s spur-of-the-moment requests, she does what she can to accommodate her little sister. Often, it is the scenes with Nadine and Sab that leave the largest impact on me, because their sisterly bond is the most relatable to my own self. On the other hand, Pepper, Sab’s best friend, is the yin to Sab’s yang. They are like two odd peas in a pod, but I love how they balance each other out. The dynamic duo that is their friendship deliver some of the more humorous parts of the novel, but they also have moments where it just uplifting to read about the support that they have for each other. Both characters have a recognizable role in Sab’s life, but they leave an equal impact as they also add a take on the social issues prevalent throughout the novel.

With that said, My Fate According to the Butterfly is a must-read. It is a heartwarming novel, wonderful and relatable to its very core. With its wonderful and engaging characters paired with an amazing writing style, it is easy to fathom why Gail D. Villanueva is an author for the ages. Such story speaks volumes when it brought up relevant social issues that is still happening in Filipino society.  I can say that it’s definitely a classic to beat. I wish I had read something like this book when I was younger, but I am so happy that the kids of today can read Sab’s story. It has the heart and soul of a Filipino, through and through.

Should I ever need a present to give to my nieces and nephews in middle grade, I would happily give them this precious gem. Thank you, Gail, for this wonderful story.

(Also, shout out to Lawin! You go, my friend!)

Know more about my rating system here.

GailDVillanueva

Gail D. Villanueva is a Filipino author born and based in the Philippines. She’s also a web designer, an entrepreneur, and a graphic artist. She loves pineapple pizza, seafood, and chocolate, but not in a single dish together (eww). Gail and her husband live in the outskirts of Manila with their dogs, ducks, turtles, cats, and one friendly but lonesome chicken.

Her debut novel, My Fate According to the Butterfly, is coming from Scholastic Press on July 30, 2019

Connect with Gail!

Website || Goodreads || Instagram || Facebook || Twitter || Pinterest

Get a chance to win kwek-kwek plushies! Click here to join! (Open to PH and international readers)

Follow the rest of the Butterfly blog tour here:

ButterflyTour Blog Tour Schedule

Also, heads up! Caffeine Tours will be hosting a Twitter chat for the Butterfly Tour on July 27, 2019. Please see the schedule below. Hope you can join in on the fun!

ButterflyTour Twitter Chat

Are you excited to dig into

My Fate According to the Butterfly?

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Woven Like Magic || Spin The Dawn by Elizabeth Lim Blog Tour (Review + Giveaway)

Hello, and welcome to the last day for the Spin The Dawn blog tour hosted by Caffeine Book Tours! We have an exciting review and surprises ahead so I hope you prepared a snack or two while we bask on the glory that is this wonderful book.

Before Reading:

A MULAN RETELLING MEETS PROJECT RUNWAY?! WHERE DO I SIGN TF UP??

… that sounded better in my head but then I realized that’s basically my reaction for every book that catches my short attention span. In all seriousness, the bookish gods are forever great for making 2019 a literal goldmine for Asian book releases. One such release is Spin The Dawn. Not gonna lie, it was the cover (isn’t it always though, Bianca??) that solidified my inclination to pick up this book. Then Caffeine Book Tours (hosted by the one and only Shut Up, Shealea) opened up a tour for this book. So yeah, that’s where I signed tf up.

Now let’s get to it! There’s a lot of ground to cover here, people!

36683928Title: Spin The Dawn

Author: Elizabeth Lim

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

ISBN:052564699X

Date Published: 9th of July 2019

Series: The Blood of Stars #1

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Buy it on: AmazonThe Book Depository

Add to Goodreads

Summary:

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

As a part of the tour, I received an e-ARC of this book. Huge thanks to the publisher for providing copies for the tour. This does not affect my review and all of the opinions and thoughts reflected here are my own.

I want to do my best not to spoil this book so please excuse me if my review is a bit short and vague.

Let’s start with the basics: there is so much to love about this book. Spin The Dawn is a paragon of young adult retellings. It sets itself on a familiar world, yet it is clear that there is so much more than to it than what lies beneath the surface. Inspired by the tale of Hua Mulan, Elizabeth Lim proves that there is more to tell when one decides to put their on spin on a well-known story. Elizabeth writes with passion and intricacy, similar to that of her main character Maia when given fabrics and needles. Readers can easily imagine the wonderful creations that Maia has crafted, but there is still room to the imagination on how they are executed. Much so, the words flow like a river, and every chapter promises to leave the reader hungry like a hawk for more. The writing is rich in lore, as if the places within the novel are tangible and exists with history.

As fitting for a royal tailor’s adventures, the setting became increasingly heavier but surprisingly lighter. By all means, the world building is simply phenomenal. Once the reader steps into Maia’s shoes, what we know of her world starts off like a hum. Then along with her steady pace, it steadily becomes vast—like drums beating to the rhythm of the heart. As Maia ventures in her quest to become the emperor’s tailor, the world beyond A’landi becomes more vivid and colorful.

For a tale of fantasy, what I also loved about Spin The Dawn is that it features a steady cast. Maia (our Mulan) remains the sole focus of the story, and it slowly invests the readers with her journey in (out)weaving her competitors to serve her emperor. But fret not, while it is archetypal, Maia as a character is still flawed and has her imperfections. There is so much love to give for all her indecisiveness and skepticism to the magic system introduced in this book. Her resilience and persistence in a society that constantly looks down upon her simply because of the gender that she was born can make readers want to scream “YES. PROVE THEM WRONG. OUT STITCH THOSE MEN.” Her love to her family is deeply admirable, and while it is heartbreaking to read, the hope for a better tomorrow remains. Maia’s strong attitude to doing anything for her family is reminiscent to that of the values that are etched in Asian family dynamics.

I would highly recommend Spin The Dawn to anyone looking for a great read. It also the perfect book to read if you are participating in the Year of the Asian Reading Challenge. I am already anticipating its sequel because it is just that darn good. Really, when it comes to finding your next amazing read, look no further. The sun, the moon, and the stars will gladly shine on you and they will point you to the direction of this book.

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Trigger/content warning: death, murder, violence, war, attempt of sexual assault

Author (Elizabeth Lim)

Elizabeth Lim grew up on a hearty staple of fairy tales, myths, and songs. Her passion for storytelling began around age 10, when she started writing fanfics for Sailor Moon, Sweet Valley, and Star Wars, and posted them online to discover, “Wow, people actually read my stuff. And that’s kinda cool!” But after one of her teachers told her she had “too much voice” in her essays, Elizabeth took a break from creative writing to focus on not flunking English.

Over the years, Elizabeth became a film and video game composer, and even went so far as to get a doctorate in music composition. But she always missed writing, and turned to penning stories when she needed a breather from grad school. One day, she decided to write and finish a novel — for kicks, at first, then things became serious — and she hasn’t looked back since.

Elizabeth loves classic film scores, books with a good romance, food (she currently has a soft spot for arepas and Ethiopian food), the color turquoise, overcast skies, English muffins, cycling, and baking. She lives in New York City with her husband.

Connect with Elizabeth!

Website || Goodreads || Instagram || Facebook || Twitter

3 readers will have the chance to win a copy of Spin The Dawn by Elizabeth Lim! Check out the giveaway here. (Open intl)

Follow the rest of the tour here:

Schedule (Spin the Dawn)

And while we’re at it, there’s a Twitter chat hosted by Caffeine Book Tours happening in a few where two (2) readers can get a chance to win copies of Spin The Dawn! 

Invite (Spin the Dawn)

All right, now who’s with me on the Spin The Dawn hype train?

ARE WE ALL ON BOARD?

Twitter || Goodreads || Letterboxd || MyAnimeList

Hungry Hearts || An #OwnVoices Food Crawl (+Giveaway)

Welcome to another stop of today’s food crawl for Hungry Hearts! Today, alongside Kate from Your Tita Kate, we will be highlighting the story from Rin Chupeco entitled Sugar and Spite. I am especially ecstatic because today in the Philippines, we are also celebrating our Independence Day! It’s not really a ‘July 4th’ kind of shindig, but it is a national holiday. And when there’s a holiday, there’s an excuse to eat good food. But when it comes to Hungry Hearts, it offers so much more than that.

HH CoverTitle: Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love

Edited by: Elsie Chapman & Caroline Tung Richmond

Hardcover, 352 pages

Date Published: 18th of June 2019

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Buy it on: Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

Add to Goodreads

Summary:

From some of your favorite bestselling and critically acclaimed authors—including Sandhya Menon, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Rin Chupeco—comes a collection of interconnected short stories that explore the intersection of family, culture, and food in the lives of thirteen teens.

A shy teenager attempts to express how she really feels through the confections she makes at her family’s pasteleria. A tourist from Montenegro desperately seeks a magic soup dumpling that could cure his fear of death. An aspiring chef realizes that butter and soul are the key ingredients to win a cooking competition that could win him the money to save his mother’s life.

Welcome to Hungry Hearts Row, where the answers to most of life’s hard questions are kneaded, rolled, baked. Where a typical greeting is, “Have you had anything to eat?” Where magic and food and love are sometimes one and the same.

Told in interconnected short stories, Hungry Hearts explores the many meanings food can take on beyond mere nourishment. It can symbolize love and despair, family and culture, belonging and home.

We’re going to stray with the typical review for the meantime. I’m honestly giddy that I am actually posting this today. Being the historical nerd that I am, I want to give you some fun facts on why today is the perfect day to post this joyful crawl. (Which I love because I sincerely believe that the hosts considered the date as a perfect stop for the tour. Thank you so much, CW and Vicky! <3)

On June 12, 1898, we officially declared our liberation from 333 years of Spanish colonization. But did you know that we actually have another one? What is now known to be Philippine-American Friendship Day became our Independence Day from the American regime on July 4, 1946. Funny thing is, after the declaration there was this whole thing about Spain selling the islands for $20 million dollars. We have a third one as well, since Japan also took over the islands during World War II. In hindsight though I think it is rather fitting to celebrate our independence on June 12 because of the impact that Spain has etched itself in our country.

Anyways, with that little tidbit aside, let us talk about today’s stop for the food crawl! Rin Chupeco has written an insightful story that ties magic with the emotions that we feel while we cook. The intensity of the food being served makes sense, because it is a reflection; a mirror one might say of the various feelings that a human soul can have. Rin incorporated ‘kulam’, a form of “an eye for an eye” sort of magic wherein you have to exchange something to get the magic that you want done to another person in return in the story, and having tied it to food made with passion makes it eerily wonderful. While I was caught off-guard at first by the perspective of the story, I realized that it had a ring to it. The way the story went made it feel more intimate and personal. What made me personally resonate and feel for the story is its main essence: its heart. The dishes particularly mentioned felt like home to me. When the lolas serve the dishes, it reminds me of my own lola (even though we are not biologically related) and my nanay making those meals. As the story goes, while the recipes are handed down from one to the other, there is a balance in following what is taught and what can be done to call the dish your own.

It is easy to love the story when you can say “Yes, I can see myself in this story because my lola and my nanay says the same thing.” Or when the narrative tells you that “Yes, you can experiment and do things your way, but you have to earn the right to do it.” Because YES, this is Filipino cooking in a nutshell. You can learn about it a certain way, but when the time comes you can and it is amazing if you learn how to make one dish your own. YES, you have to be strong when people make you feel bad for being yourself but there are stakes to weigh if all your heart wants is revenge.

That being said, and before I say anything else that can and will spoil the story, I highly recommend Filipino readers to give Sugar and Spite a read when they want to engross themselves with Hungry Hearts. It is wonderfully written, with heart-hitting notes about our dishes and magical realism integrated to heighten your senses.

Also hot tip: Read Hungry Hearts if you are actually full. I mean I can only speak for the Filipino food represented in this anthology, but I got the mad case of the cravings with every food that was mentioned. AND THERE WERE A LOT. Honestly speaking, Rin made the best choice of highlighting one, yet incorporating tons of dishes in the narrative. Because in all seriousness, how can you just choose one dish? The insanity of it all.

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Despite an unsettling resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin Chupeco always maintains her sense of hummus. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. Dances like the neighbors are watching.

Connect with Rin!

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Elsie Chapman

Elsie Chapman grew up in Prince George, Canada, and has a degree in English literature from the University of British Columbia. She is the author of the YA novels Dualed, Divided, Along the Indigo, and Caster as well as the MG novel All the Ways Home, and co-editor of A Thousand Beginnings and Endings and Hungry Hearts. She currently lives in Tokyo, Japan, with her family.

Photo Credit: Michael Meskin

Connect with Elsie!

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram

Caroline Tung Richmond

Caroline Tung Richmond is an award-winning young adult author, whose historical novels include The Only Thing to Fear, The Darkest Hour, and Live In Infamy. She’s also the co-editor of the anthology Hungry Hearts, which features stories about food and will come out in June 2019 from Simon Pulse. Her work is represented by Jim McCarthy of Dystel & Goderich.

Caroline is also the Program Director of We Need Diverse Books, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that advocates for diversity in children’s publishing.

After growing up in the Washington, D.C. area Caroline now lives in Virginia with her family.

Connect with Caroline!

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest

Hungry Hearts gives a huge spotlight on the cuisines that we love and care for the most. When I signed up, I had this huge idea of wanting to maybe do something different and will drive me to do something out of my comfort zone. So I went with digitally drawing Filipino food. Sugar and Spite briefly mentioned a lot of dishes, so there was this whole thing about the pressure of trying to draw them all. Then I thought, why not just share my favorite ones? If I were to choose three dishes that will prove my worth to my grandmothers, these will be my top picks.

Sinigang

The first one would have to be Sinigang sa Miso. I have a love-hate relationship with the regular sinigang because it’s usually a hit-or-miss for me and the flavor doesn’t seem to be consistent. But when it comes to Sinigang sa Miso, even if we use different types of fish or even if we lack just one ingredient, the flavors still come together to form the hearty zesty soup that I want to drink when I’m having a bad day.

Pancit Canton

The second one would have to be Pancit Canton. While this dish is derived from noodles, us Filipinos put our own spin on it that made it our own thing to serve at birthdays (or even holidays!!). It is fairly easy to make, but what I love about it is that it is wonderful comfort food in all its glory. At its core is the noodles, but when you a little kick to it you can always add anything out of the blue. Carrots, lettuce, eggs… the possibilities are endless and it always leaves you full and satisfied. (Plus I’m also trash for the instant one we have here. I know it’s bad for me but it’s just so good especially when there’s an egg on top.)

Caldereta

The third and final dish would have to be Caldereta. For anyone who has trouble differentiating it with menudo, afritada, mechado, it’s time to pick the king of the orange dishes. It’s like beef stew, but elevated to perfection with the tomato sauce, liver spread, and peanut butter (and CHEESE!! Friends, take note! It adds tanginess!). I personally prefer beef, but even vegetable caldereta works. My nanay can make this as spicy as she wants it to be and I will still finish it until my plate is clean. It’s my favorite dish in the world, and I hope I can one day earn the right to cook it myself. 

Check out the rest of the food crawl schedule! Huge thanks to Vicky at Vicky Who Reads and CW at The Quiet Pond for organizing this lovely tour! ❤

June 10th – Introduction

Vicky (Welcome + Interview)

June 11th – Karuna Riazi

Naadhira (Review)

June 12th – Rin Chupeco

Bianca (Review + Creative Post) & Kate (Review + Recipe)

June 13th – Jay Coles

Nikki (Review + Creative Post)

June 14th – Elsie Chapman

Kevin (Review + Creative Post) & Natalia (Review + Creative Post)

June 15th – Sara Farizan

Em (Review)

June 16th – Caroline T. Richmond

Lili (Review + Creative Post) & Tiffany (Review + Creative Post)

June 17th – Adi Alsaid

Moon (Review + Creative Post)

June 18th – Sandhya Menon

Aimal (Review + Aesthetic/Mood board) & Nia (Review + Fave Quotes)

June 19th – S. K. Ali

Mish (Review + Creative Post)

June 20th – Phoebe North

Kayla (Review + Aesthetic/Mood board)

June 21st – Rebecca Roanhorse

Lila (Review + Aesthetic/Mood board) & AJ (Review + Aesthetic/Mood board)

June 22nd – Sangu Mandanna

Nandini (Review + Creative Post) & Prags (Review + Fave Quotes)

June 23rd – Anna-Marie McLemore

Nox (Review + Creative Post)

June 24th – Closing

CW (Review + Food Crawl)

Two winners – 1 U.S. and 1 international reader has the chance to win a finished copy of Hungry Hearts! Click on the giveaway button or here.

What is your favorite food? How hungry are you for Hungry Hearts?

Twitter || Goodreads || Letterboxd || MyAnimeList

#GirlGoneViralTour || Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi

Before Reading:

I will never say never to a book that tackles virtual reality. It is a topic that I am particularly fond of and I believe that it is already incorporated in our inevitable future. Plus hello, Arvin Ahmadi? Umm… yes, please! After reading his stellar debut novel, there are no questions asked: I love his writing style, his characters, and his plot. This author writes books that I want to read. I mean, Girl Gone Viral didn’t have a cover yet and I was sold the minute I saw glitches in the pitch. Alright, no pressure on this book but I know there’s a high chance that I will love it either way. Let’s get to it!

Title: Girl Gone Viral

Author: Arvin Ahmadi

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

ISBN: 125014454X

Date Published: 21st of May 2019

Series: None

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers

Buy it on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | The Book Depository

Add to Goodreads

Summary:

The inventive and hauntingly timely story of a seventeen-year-old coder’s catapult to stardom, reminiscent of The Social Network with a Ready Player One twist.

For seventeen-year-old Opal Hopper, code is magic. She builds entire worlds from scratch: Mars craters, shimmering lakes, any virtual experience her heart desires.

But she can’t code her dad back into her life. When he disappeared after her tenth birthday, leaving only a cryptic note, Opal tried desperately to find him. And when he never turned up, she enrolled at a boarding school for technical prodigies and tried to forget.

Until now. Because WAVE, the world’s biggest virtual reality platform, has announced a contest where the winner gets to meet its billionaire founder. The same billionaire who worked closely with Opal’s dad. The one she always believed might know where he went. The one who maybe even murdered him.

What begins as a small data hack to win the contest spirals out of control when Opal goes viral, digging her deeper into a hole of lies, hacks, and manipulation. How far will Opal go for the answers–or is it the attention–she’s wanted for years?

After Reading:

OKAY, ARVIN AHMADI. WHO HURT YOU? First of all, HOW DARE YOU? Second, I swear to the virtual gods if this does not have a sequel, I will combine forces with Penguin Teen on Twitter.

As a part of the tour, I received an ARC of this book to borrow. Huge thanks to Penguin Random House for providing copies for the tour. This does not affect my review and all of the opinions and thoughts reflected here are my own.

*cracks knuckles* It’s been a while, huh? To start, let me just say that this book had me in total awe. I could not fully describe how I exactly felt because my emotions were all over the place when I read it. But for the sake of this review, I will try to do my best. Though I have to say something first.

I have been dying to talk to someone about this book FOR MONTHS. It is both a blessing and a curse to be able to read this book so early this year. I swear my head was going to explode only being able to talk about it in code. Like HELLO, a book this good and I can only go “Humina-humina.” Just a few more days, B. The world will eventually know your pain. I wish I could scream but I couldn’t. There is just a lot of ground to cover, but it’s all in a good way. THIS. BOOK. IS. REALLY. SOMETHING. ELSE.

Girl Gone Viral only proves that my love for Arvin Ahmadi soars beyond his debut novel. His gravitating writing style and world-building is remarkable. It is one heck of a ride and it keeps readers guessing, wondering, and questioning about what is real and what isn’t. There is a lot of ground to tackle, but it’s a good thing. There is something in this novel that many can and will find themselves in. I also love how he built the world of Silicon Valley into something eerily familiar yet ridiculously too far to grasp entirely. This book can easily be compared to an underground vault. It has so many floors and layers to uncover that it makes you question the truth of it all.

Another unique concept that I admire and enjoyed reading about this book was WAVE. (Note: if you don’t want to know about it, please skip this section entirely. Not that it’s a spoiler, but having no context about it will help if you want to go into the book blindly.) Imagine Youtube combining forces with all the other social media platforms. It’s like what Google+ wanted to be. Augmented reality combined with Youtube and/or Twitch livestreams, but the host gets to design their stage and is able to completely interact with their audience. The sky’s the limit with what the streamer wants the audience to see, and the most innovative creators compete to see whose show gets to the top. I mean, even late night show hosts knows that WAVE is where it is at. But mind you, Girl Gone Viral does not simply stop there.

The complexity of it all is why it is also easier to imagine this future through the eyes of our heroine Opal Hopper. As the story unfolds, so does she. It is interesting to see how she grows as a person amidst the spotlight that falls on her during her senior year. Imagine being a senior, balancing a scheduled show and her own studies, while trying to navigate university applications, first love, newfound allies and enemies, all while trying to uncover a mystery that has been unresolved for nearly decade. I know. It’s a whole lot but trust me, RIDICULOUS does not cover this book. Surrounding Opal are also some of the most genuine and morally gray characters you could think of. Yet somehow, she has this magnetic attitude, befitting the title that she truly deserves. Opal is the teen that I wish I was, and seeing how she grew in this story made me admire her even more.

That being said, Arvin Ahmadi delivered a fantastic sophomore novel in the form of Girl Gone Viral. The fantastic flow of his writing style will leave readers on the edge of their seats while clutching onto its pages. Its titular character Opal Hopper is strong and will-powered, yet still had the room to grow and challenge her own beliefs. It is a wonderful book filled with the scary possibilities of where the technology of the future can lead us to, but it also delivers to a point where it deeply reflects our current state. I applaud this novel for being audacious and bold for tackling social issues that deeply affect today’s society. If you are looking to start reading science fiction, look no further because this one is here to deliver.

Please do note the following trigger warnings: Death, attempted suicide, and depression

Arvin Ahmadi grew up outside Washington, DC. He graduated from Columbia University and has worked in the tech industry. When he’s not reading or writing books, he can be found watching late-night talk show interviews and editing Wikipedia pages. Down and Across is his first novel.

Much love and thanks to Bookworms Unite PH for hosting this amazing tour. Follow the rest of the tour here (will be linking posts once their tour stops are up):

May 16

JM at Book Freak Revelations (Official launch)

May 17

Bianca at The Ultimate Fangirl (hey, you’re here!)

Kate at Your Tita Kate

May 18

Pam at The Girl Who Cried Books

Zia at Accio Blog

May 19

Karina at Afire Pages

May 20

Marie at Drizzle and Hurricane Books

Alexia at The Bookworm Daydreamer

May 21

JM at Book Freak Revelations

Hazel at Stay Bookish

May 22

Miel at Bookish and Awesome

Salve at Cuckoo for Books

May 23

Inah at The Bibliophile Confessions

Simant at Flipping Thru The Pages

May 24

Kate at Reading Through Infinity

Carmel at Bookish Caramel

Are you excited to read Girl Gone Viral? Are you giddy to experience some virtual reality action? What are some of your favorite science fiction books?

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Enlightenment Blog Tour (Excerpt)

Welcome to another stop for the Enlightenment Blog Tour hosted by Kate at Your Tita Kate. As a giddy fangirl game and all up for Philippine myths and legends, I was beyond excited to participate in this lovely tour. As such, this book promises a whole lot of action and your much needed dose of magical realism. With the modern take added on creatures from our own, it is easy to gravitate and appreciate this story.

While I will not be sharing my full thoughts on this book, I will be sharing an excerpt for you, dear reader. Read on to get a glimpse of the world behind Enlightenment.

Title: Enlightenment

Author: Reno Ursal

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mythology

ISBN: 098444081X

Date Published: 14th of March 2019

Series: Book One of the Bathala Series

Publisher: Pacific Boulevard

Buy it on: Amazon | Barnes & NobleThe Book Depository

Add to Goodreads

Summary:

“Enlightenment” is the first book in The Bathala Series, inspired by the beautiful folklore of the Philippines. This is the coming of age journey of Filipina-American Dorothy Dizon and transfer student Adrian Rosario, who teeter between friendship and intimacy throughout the novel.

“Enlightenment” introduces Dorothy as an 18 year old high school student in the United States, learning through Adrian about the mysterious folklore that binds them to the obscure history of the Philippines. She realizes that supernatural forces are no defense for a consuming love, a love that has her lean on her best friend for support, the beautiful Stella De Guzman. Adrian is a blood-eating Danag warrior sent to protect Dorothy from unseen enemies of his secret society in the Philippines, a society that changed the course of history prior to Spanish colonization. Adrian’s doubts about Dorothy are put to the test until the final moment when he feels a connection he could never predict. Together, Dorothy and Adrian experience a metamorphosis of historic proportions, a metamorphosis that changes their souls.

Chapter 6: Adrian

Living among humans wasn’t bad, except for having to protect a girl in Sin City. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

The casinos easy money was impossible to access when pretending to be an eighteen-year-old kid. And since eighteen-year-olds aren’t allowed to gamble in Vegas, I was out of luck. The adrenaline rush came from defeating the odds. My ability to predict the probability of things was considered a subtle intuition for my kind. But in Vegas, I could profit from the casinos and return home with something to talk about. Stupid human laws.

It wasn’t about making money, the most useless invention ever created. The greenback a valuable commodity? Anyone with half a brain knew money was simply pictures and numbers printed on paper! From trees! The real commodities were platinum, gold and silver stored deep in earth’s core. But humans still hadn’t realized the value of utopian wealth. Society’s sense of value was strictly tied to one’s annual gross income.

The row of lockers shook when I slammed my locker door. As the vibration dissipated, a nervous energy resonated behind me. The girl. Dorothy’s crooked smile disappeared as soon as we locked eyes. Based on the extra shine reflecting off her forehead, she looked like she was perspiring. Her hair was in that same ponytail—her bangs now to the side—giving her a different glow than yesterday. She walked past me athletically, her hair bouncing with each step. The smell of artificially flavored berries lingered in the air from her perfume.

Conscious of my strength, I ground my teeth to keep from overwhelming her. Dorothy looked back and our eyes connected again before she entered her first-hour classroom, not bothering to look back at the door.

I stared at the hallway’s linoleum floor, wishing I had the willpower to balance my energy. I hadn’t given her enough space to perceive me without feeling a connection. Yet she smiled at me. Didn’t she? Why did she look away when I smiled at her? My influence over emotions should have affected her, but she had the strength to break free. Maybe I pulled back too much?

And that’s when an staggering frustration overtook me. Humans were emotional, crying and whining over things like money and love. History had proven mortals didn’t know the true significance of their existence. And now, after the nightclub incident, Dorothy had somehow tapped into her ancestry that humans would consider to be a Filipino cultural one, not able to see that race was a facade that hid our truest form. There was no doubt the truth would shock them.

But it wasn’t my place to argue over the human condition. The only thing to worry about was protecting Dorothy Dizon. She had nearly suffocated a guy at the club, which sent signals to us in Mandalagan. Now I had to stay focused in case Sitan had received the same signals.

She glanced into her chemistry book as her teacher closed the classroom door. I went on to my class a few doors down, still wondering how she managed to look away from me in the first place.

Reno Ursal is a Filipino American author who received an English B.A. from The University of Michigan and resides in Northern California. He is the epitome of a familiar U.S. immigrant story when his parents moved to the States from the Philippines (by way of Guyana) in 1974 in search of a better life. He grew up in a small Northern Michigan town as his parents established themselves in their new life. His summer trips to Cebu kept him connected to his Filipino family. The hikes up the mountain from his ancestral home in Catmon had his imagination swirling with ideas, especially with the legends of duwendes and other creatures of Filipino folklore.

Reno was an active reader growing up and started writing during his participation in the Huron Shores Writing Institute in high school. When he took an Asian Pacific American Literature course taught by Dr. Stephen Sumida at University of Michigan, the idea of writing a Filipino American story stuck at the back of his mind. Life moved fast after college. He met a girl named Lynette in California. They married in 2000 and became proud parents of three 2nd generation Filipino American children. He had a full-time job and less time to write, but found time burning the midnight oil. His first novel “The Three Promises” was written when his kids were babies. This novel is currently an unpublished novel, but spawned the hunger to write another novel entitled “The Last Remaining.” Many drafts later, the title changed to “Enlightenment.”

Want to discuss more about Philippine myths and legends? There will be a Twitter chat on March 30, 2019 just for this lovely book. Mark your calendars and join in on the fun!

Have you put Enlightenment on your TBRs yet? What books with rich fantasy settings derived from myths and legends have you read?

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International Blog Tour: Bloom (Review + Playlist)

Before Reading:

The graphic novels in my pantheon are at a staggering all time low. While I am a manga person, I never seem to have that spark of a connection with the illustrated novels out in the market. All of that changed in 2018 though. I was lucky enough to be able to read not one, but two graphic novels with LGBT themes. This novel was one of them. I was drawn to the calm exterior and the blue-green undertones, but I truly did not know what to expect with this book. It is becoming an ‘inside joke’ here that I really like judging books based on their covers, and in all honesty, this book became a subject of that partial indecisiveness.

Lucky for me, I was proven wrong and I found the perfect book to read on a hot November day.

29225589Title: Bloom

Author: Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau

Genre: Graphic Novel, LGBT, Sequential Art

ISBN: 1626726418

Date Published: 12th of February 2019

Series: None

Publisher: First Second

Buy it on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository

Add this book on Goodreads

Summary:

Now that high school is over, Ari is dying to move to the big city with his ultra-hip band―if he can just persuade his dad to let him quit his job at their struggling family bakery. Though he loved working there as a kid, Ari cannot fathom a life wasting away over rising dough and hot ovens. But while interviewing candidates for his replacement, Ari meets Hector, an easygoing guy who loves baking as much as Ari wants to escape it. As they become closer over batches of bread, love is ready to bloom . . . that is, if Ari doesn’t ruin everything.

Writer Kevin Panetta and artist Savanna Ganucheau concoct a delicious recipe of intricately illustrated baking scenes and blushing young love, in which the choices we make can have terrible consequences, but the people who love us can help us grow.

After Reading:

~ I’m a case of emotions ~ and again, it is unlikely for someone like me to finish a book within a day. I could have finished this book within a day, but I reckoned that it is also a book that I need to slowly dance through.

As a part of the tour, I received a physical ARC of this book. Huge thanks to Macmillan International for providing copies for the tour. This does not affect my review and all of the opinions and thoughts reflected here are my own.

Bloom made me realize that I am missing out on young adult graphic novels out on the market. In the literal sense, it is a refreshing read – a palette cleanser from the usual heavy books in the contemporary genre. Simply put, it is extremely easy to fall in love summery read.

Let me tell you of the tale of how I fell in love with a book. This story is simply one of the best as it satisfies my love for slow-burn romances, angst, family dynamics, and character development. The art style and the flow of the story can easily get you hooked, but it’s the self-discovery and the character interactions that makes you want to stay.

Our main characters Ari and Hector are easy to root for. There is that glimmer in their eyes when they do what they love. Ari is harder to grasp in general because of his stubbornness, but I loved him more than Hector (who I will get to in a minute). Probably due to my bias of his character, but Ari had more room to grow. He was lost, questioning if he really wants to pursue music or continue with the norm of baking for the family business. He’s lashing out like a normal teenager who makes incredulous decisions, which makes him relatable and dynamic. I don’t know if it’s a preference, but characters like Ari are the ones I usually resonate with the most. I can see why people may not like him as much as his love interest, but Ari being one realistic bean is just the cherry on top. He’s complex, he has a lot of emotions, and he has semi-horrible taste in friends. Yet what’s not to love? Hector on the other hand, is the lucky one who knows what he wants. But underneath that soft exterior is still a guy also discovering himself. It is so darn easy to live for the passion displayed by Hector’s eagerness and happy-go-lucky nature. Together, they make a wonderful team. The contrast and comparison in their personalities is what makes this book burst with life. The sequences where they are together can make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. What started out as a beautiful friendship turned out to be something more.

The art style is simply magnetic and mesmerizing, truthfully living up to the summer love contained in this book. I love the utilization of color to convey emotions. It is still evident when there’s a prominent reaction or feeling, which makes the art so much more powerful in connecting with its readers. I am honestly head-over-heels with the background, the little details, and its dialogue.

Bloom is not your ordinary graphic novel. It’s so much more. It’s not just a love story. It’s about family, friendship, exes, moving, and looking forward to what the future holds. It’s amazing how something so heartfelt can be considered cute and adorable. Props to both authors for creating an inspiring story.

Overall, Bloom is a fantastic story. It has heart and soul, key elements to note when reading a contemporary novel that will latch itself onto you. Delighfully charming on its own right, and with equally amazing style and art – the one book that you have to put on your radar in 2019. If you’re intrigued to read about two boys baking, exploring relationship dynamics with family and friends, and an amazing story set in the summer, this one’s for you.

Pro tip though: you may get a slight (or massive) craving for that delectable sour dough bread. Trust me, I was lucky enough to live near a bakery.

Know more about my rating system here.

Want a playlist to remind you about those hues? I made a playlist specifically for Bloom. Album art design included, as I made it prior to curating the playlist. Happy listening!

kevin_

Connect with Kevin!

Website || Twitter

Kevin Panetta is a Washington, DC based comic book and graphic novel writer. He has written licensed children’s comics from Boom! Studios. His first creator-owned series, Zodiac Starforce, debuted from Dark Horse Comics in August 2015.

200057865

Connect with Savanna!

Twitter || Instagram || Tumblr

Savanna Ganucheau is a comic artist from New Orleans, Louisiana with a BFA in Film from The University of New Orleans. She made her start in comics by self-publishing and selling her work in small comic book shops around New Orleans. Alongside creating the popular webcomic George and Johnny, Savanna’s artwork has appeared in notable publications including Jem and the Holograms, Adventure Time Comics, and Lumberjanes. Her first graphic novel Bloom is published by First Second.

A big thank you to JM at Book Freak Revelations for hosting this wonderful tour and Macmillan International for providing us with galleys.

Follow the rest of the tour here (list will be updated once the tour stops are posted):

Marie at Drizzle and Hurricane Books

Anna at Reading Peaches

Bianca at The Ultimate Fangirl (hey, you’re here)

JM at Book Freak Revelations

Kate at Your Tita Kate

Jessica at Endless Chapters

Kate at Reading Through Infinity

Jessica at Endless Chapters

 

Are you excited to read Bloom? Do you live for food in books? What are some of your favorite tropes to see in books?

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PH Blog Tour: The Gilded Wolves

Before Reading:

Transparency is key to making something work so I have to be fully honest. I wasn’t really fully on board when I heard that The Gilded Wolves is coming out in 2019. I do know for a fact that so many readers love A Star-Touched Queen and Aru Shah. I’m like that one person in a concert who loves the people performing on stage, but is too introverted for the crowd so I stay at the back. Yes, I dare say it. Roshani’s a rockstar in the book community and I am but a humble fangirl admiring and respecting her from a distance. Until I heard that her newest series is set in 1889 during the Exposition Universelle, and features an ilustrado while writing and editing a script for a gosh darn play about our national hero who was physically there while all of it was happening. I swear I never jumped on a bandwagon so fast. LOOK OUT PEOPLE, HISTORY NERD COMING THROUGH. MOVE, OR I’LL LECTURE YOU ABOUT ALL OF RIZAL’S GIRLFRIENDS IN FULL CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER.

*people new to my blog, probably: … wtf??

I swear I’m chill… but I am so hyped. I cannot contain myself. ;u;

39863498Title: The Gilded Wolves

Author: Roshani Chokshi

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

ISBN: 125014454X

Date Published: 15th of January 2019

Series: The Gilded Wolves #1

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Buy it on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | The Book Depository

Add to Goodreads

Summary:

Set in a darkly glamorous world, The Gilded Wolves is full of mystery, decadence, and dangerous but thrilling adventure.

Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

After Reading:

*releases a breath I did not realize I was holding*

DID I JUST READ A MASTERPIECE?!

As a part of the tour, I received an e-ARC of this book. Huge thanks to Macmillan International for providing copies for the tour. This does not affect my review and all of the opinions and thoughts reflected here are my own.

The bookish gods are really spoiling us in 2019 because this book is starting it with a bang. My love-hate relationship with fantasy books finally blossomed into a wonderful romance, and I have this book to thank forever. The Gilded Wolves solidified my love for history and fantasy, and its compellingly woven plot, writing style, and character development delivers nothing less. I did not know what to expect because I was interested the moment I read “Paris, 1889” in the synopsis. I have no idea what adventure awaits me, but I was so curious that I just let it take me away. After reading this novel, I came back to the real world jumping straight to the bandwagon that is The Gilded Wolves fandom.

Let’s talk about the wonderful plot within this novel first. In my perspective, it’s easy to stay fond of this book if you went into it blindly and you just let it take you on a majestic ride. It is astonishingly fast-paced, much to the delight of its readers, and it has everything that you want for a grand heist. As this is also a historical fantasy novel, I have mad respect for the details that Roshani has included to introduce her readers to the streets of 19th century Paris and introducing us to Forging, the magic of creating. I love how it is tied with the Industrial Revolution, where its power is critical and of major importance. I can sense all the time and effort it took to research about these times, which is why Roshani Chokshi is on her way to becoming one of my favorite authors. To be able to combine both elements and fulfill her reader’s delight with this gem is such a strong feat. Merged with her glamorous, magnetic, and detailed writing style, it is easy to devour this novel like a wolf triumphant in trapping its prey.

Now this book would feel incomplete without its characters. One thing that this book can proudly boast is its cast. Everyone has different backgrounds and experiences, adding height and consequences to what lies ahead for them. While they are all candidates for “book characters you would want to love forever”, I want to speak for one of them. If you will excuse me, let me express my feelings about a certain person.

Mom, do I always have to stay composed in this part of the review? I just want Enrique to talk history to me all day long.

Alright, I don’t want this review to turn into a “Why Enrique Mercado-Lopez is the best character ever” blog post so I guess I will just have to cut to the chase. I fell in love with Enrique the moment I sensed his presence in the book. I know I say this with a lot of characters, but this boy is extra special for me. Not only has Roshani written about a Filipino character, but she did it so bloody well that I want to hug and thank her for making this beautiful man exist. I have fallen full-on head-over-heels for a fictional character again, only worse because I simply cannot get him out of my head. I badly want to tell him he’s pretty. ;u; A humorous historian who just wants to do his best in aiding his fellow countrymen to get their reforms noticed? My inner history nerd is fanning herself and is basically swooning whenever he speaks. I feel like I can listen to him talk about history all day and I would do so with all my heart because I would love to chime in with what I know about what he’s talking about. His inner struggles also give my heartstrings a tug, because it’s true when you’re half-Spanish and historically speaking. There is a line drawn for him when it comes to privilege and finding himself fitting into ones culture. To be able to discover his identity among his comrades amidst the brewing chaos between Spain and the Philippines is a difficult landscape to be in. Seeing his character grow with his found family is why I love him to bits.

Mom help me. I fell in love with a man but he’s fictional, in an alternate timeline, and he’s halfway across the world.

This is why I want to commend Roshani for giving us vigorously dynamic characters that validates experiences and makes readers feel represented. I mean sure Enrique really takes the cake because he is the character I resonate and at least know the most, yet I was fully invested with this story because of the entire crew. I’m sure I am not the only one who will also enjoy reading about Severin, an Algerian-French fallen heir and his quest to regain what once was his; Hypnos, a queer Black heir and his ultra-charming yet dangerously alarming personality; Laila, an Indian young lady finding herself while carrying another persona and being selfless at the same time; Zofia, an autistic Jewish Polish mathematician finding comfort in numbers and willingness to give her sister the comforts of life; and Tristan, a Frenchman and Severin’s brother by all means but blood, who just wants the best for the man he considers his family. All of them have their own personal agenda, and you would think that this crew will never work. Differences aside, each of them are important pieces to a puzzle that makes the flow of the story work like clockwork. Seeing how their heists unfold will bring you so much intensity while reading.

I would gladly say that The Gilded Wolves is a work of art. It is a magnificent and elegant piece, as proven by the intricacy of Roshani’s writing style and undeniably incredible plot. The dynamic cast draws and gives life unto what promises to be a one-of-a-kind heist, making readers fall in love with their magnetic and dimensional characterization. It is easy to fall in love with this book, and it manifests itself as a tour de force of a series, easily placing its readers on the edge of their seats – hungry for more.

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Roshani Chokshi is the New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen and A CROWN OF WISHES. Her middle grade debut, ARU SHAH AND THE END OF TIME, released April 3, 2018 from Disney/Rick Riordan Presents. Her next young adult novel, THE GILDED WOLVES, is slated for Winter 2019. Chokshi’s work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, and Book Smugglers. She was a finalist in the 2016 Andre Norton Award and the Locus Top Ten for Best First Novel. Her short story, “The Star Maiden,” was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.

Connect with Roshani!

Website || Twitter || Goodreads

Also since this post is going live on the 15th, I would like to say a happy book birthday to this wonderful and luscious novel! It brings me so much joy to have started this year reading this book, and I truly, TRULY hope that the world will enjoy this book. Also, don’t be like me. Read a Roshani Chokshi novel today!

Still not convinced about the awesomeness of The Gilded Wolves? No problem! This particular tour hosted by Rafael at The Royal Polar Bear Reads and Shaine at Wanderer in Neverland promises an array of reviews from various Filipino bloggers. Check out this tour schedule (will be linking to other blogs once their posts are up):

January 14, 2019

Rafael at The Royal Polar Bear Reads

Shaine at Wanderer in Neverland

Jon at Wander with Jon

Karlita at Tale Out Loud

January 15, 2019

Dexter at Dexterous Totalous

Vivian at Vanilla Angel Pages

Bianca at The Ultimate Fangirl (hey, you’re here!)

January 16, 2019

Athena at The Night Faerie

Joel at Descendant of Poseidon Reads

Rain at Book Dragonism

January 17, 2019

Alexia at The Bookworm Daydreamer

Justine at Bookish Wisps

Akisha at Aki Through Books

January 18, 2019

Leslie at Bibliophile Kid

Hanaa at Ramblings of a Bookworm

Rachel at In Between Book Pages

January 19, 2019

Erika at The Nocturnal Fey

Avery at B For Bookslut

Salwa at Reading Solace

Are you excited to read The Gilded Wolves? What are you most eager to read about?

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PH Blog Tour: Everlasting Nora

Before Reading:

There were a lot of thoughts that ran through my head before joining this tour. But there’s a part of me that won’t be sharing those today because it seems irrelevant when it comes to this particular book. Not going to lie, the subject matter itself is a bit delicate, at least with the concern of city overpopulation. Living in the city where this book is set makes it a much harder pill to swallow, because I cannot deny how much of this book is actually real. Manila is a small city, but the number of people living here is in ridiculous numbers. After all, it is the capital of the Philippines, and therefore a main hub for opportunity. Sure, it’s a beautiful city to live in. But if you consider that kids like Nora, the protagonist of this book, has to live in the conditions stated in this book – it makes you want to think and analyze.

book_

Title: Everlasting Nora

Author: Marie Miranda Cruz

Genre: Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

ISBN: 0544530942

Date Published: 2nd of October 2018

Series: None

Publisher: Starscape

Buy it on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Audible

Summary:

An uplifting middle-grade debut about perseverance against all odds, Marie Miranda Cruz’s debut Everlasting Nora follows the story of a young girl living in the real-life shanty town inside the Philippines’ North Manila Cemetery.

After a family tragedy results in the loss of both father and home, 12-year-old Nora lives with her mother in Manila’s North Cemetery, which is the largest shanty town of its kind in the Philippines today.

When her mother disappears mysteriously one day, Nora is left alone.

With help from her best friend Jojo and the support of his kindhearted grandmother, Nora embarks on a journey riddled with danger in order to find her mom. Along the way she also rediscovers the compassion of the human spirit, the resilience of her community, and everlasting hope in the most unexpected places.

After Reading:

There were moments while reading this book where I had to stop and breathe. There were a lot of moments where I just pause and take a break from reading because the scenes were emotionally hitting me and I’m in a public vehicle making a weird face to convey my true emotions. There was a lot to take in after finishing this story, and I love how there was a discussion guide ready in the copy provided to us for the tour. It really helped me put together what I wanted to say about this book.

Trigger Warnings: violence, child abuse, classism, extreme poverty / hunger, kidnapping, descriptions of blood and other serious injuries

It’s a probably a first, but I will be using mood boards to further illustrate what this novel has contained within its pages. I have to say that I may be a little bit biased (just a little) considering that this is set in the city I grew up in, and I may get a little bit too comfortable if I use words alone to further elaborate why this book is a must-read.

Let’s start with the technical aspects first. Marie Miranda Cruz’s writing was a little bit hard to get into at first, but as I grew to love Nora, it was endearing to read. Like I said in the beginning, it made me want to think and analyze. Marie writes with heart, which I think is very important when you’re writing a book that revolves around Filipino characters. Though I struggled, I was easily rewarded with this growing intensity of not knowing that I am slowly being engrossed into the story. The way Marie captured Manila and Nora’s way of life since her father died was eerily familiar in tone. The setting alone was enough for me to shed a tear or two. A sense of familiarity waved throughout the novel, and I didn’t have to think that hard to know what it was like to be in Nora’s shoes because it is already a reflection of what some communities look like here in the Philippines. It was clear to see that it was well-researched writing because it makes you ingest a heavy topic without a bad aftertaste of it being too preachy.

To give you a feel of what Nora is going through, let me tell this little piece of nugget: Every year on November 1st and 2nd for All Saints Day and All Souls Day, similar to Dia de los Muertos for Mexican and Latin American countries, we Filipinos gather in the cemetery and spend the day there. The place where Nora lives is ALWAYS featured in the news because it gets very crowded. As I have mentioned earlier, a lot of people live in Manila, so it makes sense that people would want to bury their loved ones somewhere near them. Manila North Cemetery houses a lot of the city’s dead population – people from all walks of life are buried there, from street vendors to previous presidents.

Related article: Manila North Cemetery, one of the oldest and biggest cemeteries in Metro Manila

But the cemetery also houses the living. In fact, there’s a community within it. There are a lot of factors why people chose to live there, but yes, it is true. Nora and Mama for example, had nowhere else to go, so they chose to live in the family mausoleum. Near them, there’s Nora’s friend Jojo and his lola who has lived in the cemetery ever since. Living there does not change their spirits in any way. I can go on and on about where this story is set, but it’s fair enough to note that the book is authentically set and it is as true as it can be.

Related article: Graveyard living: inside the ‘cemetery slums’ of Manila

Everlasting Nora’s plot was deeply intertwined with its characters and how they grew in the story. But in the middle of it all was Nora. She had a dynamic personality, and there were a lot of layers to her character. For one, she is a hopeful girl dreaming of a better future for Mama and herself. Her character was already someone you would want to root for till the end. But after her mother went missing, she became a better and stronger person. I have so much respect for this girl. Not only did she stay strong and brave, she mapped out what life she wants to have and how she will attain it without bringing other people down. I honestly also liked the character of Mama when I contemplated about my thoughts on this book. Though we never got her perspective and only saw her through Nora’s eyes, the way the author made her flawed made her embody a lot of Filipino mothers who are willing to do anything and everything just to give their child the quintessential Filipino upbringing. While there were certainly many more characters in this narrative, they all felt real. Even the antagonists of this novel felt close to home. They brought out the worst and best qualities that embodies the Filipino culture. Like for example: Lola Mercy, Jojo, Aling Lydia, and Nora’s community in the cemetery brought out the spirit of bayanihan, togetherness, and found families, while Lola Fely and Tiger brought out unimaginable counts of greed, crab mentality, and corruption.

Overall, Everlasting Nora is, how do I put this… very Filipino. I mean it in all good sense and it is meant to be a compliment. It captures the true essence of the Filipino spirit, reflected on each and every page. There’s this sense of familiarity to it, and never have I read middle grade novel where I fully know a character from head to toe. It is not a sad story, but a rather uplifting one. Nora’s journey to self-discovery with all of the challenges that she had to face were an evident reflection, but also something we should all look upon on with an open mind. As a reader, I want more stories like Everlasting Nora. As a reviewer, I found this book charming yet emotionally heartfelt. Definitely a must-read.

Huge thanks to Kate at The Backwards Bookshelf for letting me join this lovely tour, and for Marie Miranda Cruz for sharing Nora’s story to the world. To be able to read and promote such a story that strongly reflects the Filipino spirit is already amazing in on itself. I’m only hoping that we can have a more diverse set of stories such as this one that displays various experiences from different regions made available for Filipino readers.

Want to chat and discuss about Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz? Join us on December 16 at 8:00 PM (Philippine Standard Time)! Just follow the tag #EverlastingNoraPH and our host Kate at The Backwards Bookshelf.

So, what do you think? Want to give Everlasting Nora your seal of approval? What other Filipino middle grade novels can you recommend?

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The 12 Days of Holly Chase Blog Tour (Bookmarks + Giveaway)

‘Tis the season to be merry! Welcome to the third day of the Holly Chase tour hosted by Your Book Travels.

A little confession though before I elaborate on today’s tour stop. I’m not much of a Christmas person. I know, shocking when I decided to join such a festive celebration. You can say that I used to be a bit of a Grinch. It’s kinda hard, especially since:

  1. We don’t experience the winter weather here in the Philippines. (Not even fall. What even are pumpkin spice lattes?)
  2. Filipinos debunk the Santa thing pretty early since it’s kinda hard to think about how the heck he’ll give presents when we don’t exactly have chimneys.
  3. Family reunions are both a joyous occasion and a pin to your mental health. (Thank you for noticing the weight I gained, Aunt Barbara. No, Auntie Sylvia. I don’t have a boyfriend yet.)

But hey, I warmed up to it. Once you get past all of the trials and tribulations that comes with the holidays, it’s not all that bad. In fact, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. For us Filipinos, the Christmas season starts once the month’s letters ends in -ber. No joke in some ways, because I know people who literally put up their displays in the middle of September. (Halloween who? Thank u, next.) So you can safely say that we’re always bringing our a-game in sharing the Christmas spirit. Who has the time to say “Bah, humbug.”? Definitely not us since we are too merry in basically every Christmas activity.

Honestly, there is so much joy and warm feelings that come with the Christmas season. Especially for us readers! We get all cozy with our latest reads, thanking the bookish gods that we have the holidays to engross ourselves with our current reads. To add, when it comes to receiving (and giving) gifts, nothing warms a bookworm’s heart more than a book. Personally, I love reading contemporaries that make you feel all warm and fuzzy. Just take it from the wonderful book that we’re celebrating today. What’s not to like about a book set during the holidays? It is a Christmas Carol-inspired young adult novel – a modern take on good ‘ol Ebenezer Scrooge. But this time, her name is Holly Chase. It’s a retelling, but there’s so much more that goes on. Simple yet complex in the values and lessons learned: that’s The Afterlife of Holly Chase for you.

Title: The Afterlife of Holly Chase

Author: Cynthia Hand

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

ISBN: 0062318500

Date Published: 24th of October 2017

Series: None

Publisher: HarperTeen

Buy it on: HarperCollinsAmazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Indiebound

Summary:

On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn’t.

And then she died.

Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change. . . .

While I will not be sharing a full review despite having read (and loved) this wonderful book, I will be sharing some bookmarks inspired by Cynthia Hand’s lovely novel.

I read this book in early March, and a bit out of the loop if you might add, but The Afterlife of Holly Chase still has that spark and the same fuzzy feeling you get when it’s Christmas. Paired with Cynthia Hand’s magnificent writing style, it’s easy to love the premise. Granted you do get to meet some characters that make you go -oof, but hey, what you can expect from reading this book is some great character development. It’s an excellent story about love, friendship, and second chances with a mix of magical realism that can make you mutter, “God bless us, everyone.” The story overall had a good ring to it, and if given the chance, it’s one of those books that are perfect to reread with some hot cocoa by one’s bedside.

Now when it came to designing these bookmarks, I took inspiration from the simplicity and the minimalism of the cover of this awesome book. While it is mostly quotes, I wanted to add some holly-day PSA. (I will never get tired of that pun.) Generally put, I have a weakness for things that can make anyone happy. So hey, to the person reading this, I hope you enjoy these bookmarks!

You can get these lovely bookmarks individually, or get the whole set here.

Bookmark 1

Bookmark 2

Bookmark 3

“Holly-day Prize Pack” Giveaway

U.S. Only! (Click on the photo to be redirected)

The winner will receive a signed copy of a Cynthia Hand novel of your choice, a Holly hat, knitted by Cynthia, a holiday spice candle, a copy of Mickey’s Christmas Carol, two Christmas tree bath bombs, a cranberry/pear and vanilla lip balm set, a “make your own ugly sweater kit,” a pair of Christmas tree glasses, a Christmas mug that reads: “Dear Santa, it’s a long story,” Christmas pencils, candy cane Christmas kisses, and a limited edition Holly Chase ornament, signed by Cynthia (not pictured), and digital download of The Afterlife of Holly Chase: An Alternate Christmas Carol by Lindsey Hunt.

Cynthia Hand is the New York Times bestselling author of several books for teens, including the UNEARTHLY trilogy, THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE, MY LADY JANE and MY PLAIN JANE (with fellow authors Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows), THE AFTERLIFE OF HOLLY CHASE, and the upcoming novel THE HOW AND THE WHY (Fall 2019). Before turning to writing for young adults, she studied literary fiction and earned both an M.F.A. and a Ph.D. in fiction writing. She currently resides in Boise, Idaho, with a husband who’s addicted to typewriters, two kids, two cats, one crazy dog, and a entourage of imaginary friends.

Connect with Cynthia!

Website || Facebook || Twitter || Goodreads

Now the big question/s are: Have you read The Afterlife of Holly Chase? What are some of your favorite books set during the holidays?

Twitter || Goodreads || Letterboxd || MyAnimeList

PH Blog Tour: Empress of All Seasons (Review)

Before Reading:

Let me just state the obvious here: The Ultimate Fangirl is not exactly known for featuring fantasy books. It’s a genre that is quite literally out of my comfort zone. Sure you see me review some big fantasy books out there, but they’re not exactly my cuppa. It’s a either a really huge hit or a gigantic miss. But let 2018 be the 360 degree turn. Ever since Shealea at That Bookshelf Bitch recommended this particular tome on her Books On The Rice fantasy feature, I immediately added this book on my TBR. Seeing it just made a sudden realization struck me. “Hey, maybe I just need to be closer to what I know to actually ease into this genre.”

Empress of All Seasons is the perfect place to start. It’s inspired by Japanese folk lore, and heck I know a kappa when I see one. Years of watching anime and actually researching about the legendary creatures of Japan has prepared me for this. With that in mind, I truly hope I can get out of my comfort zone this time and not exactly dislike it.

(Spoiler: Yeah, I think this theory of mine is true.)

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37569318Title: Empress of All Seasons

Author: Emiko Jean

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

ISBN: 0544530942

Date Published: 6th of November 2018

Series: None

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Buy it on: Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | The Book Depository

Summary:

In a palace of illusions, nothing is what it seems.

Each generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoku. The rules are simple. Survive the palace’s enchanted seasonal rooms. Conquer Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Marry the prince. All are eligible to compete—all except yōkai, supernatural monsters and spirits whom the human emperor is determined to enslave and destroy.

Mari has spent a lifetime training to become empress. Winning should be easy. And it would be, if she weren’t hiding a dangerous secret. Mari is a yōkai with the ability to transform into a terrifying monster. If discovered, her life will be forfeit. As she struggles to keep her true identity hidden, Mari’s fate collides with that of Taro, the prince who has no desire to inherit the imperial throne, and Akira, a half-human, half-yōkai outcast.

Torn between duty and love, loyalty and betrayal, vengeance and forgiveness, the choices of Mari, Taro, and Akira will decide the fate of Honoku in this beautifully written, edge-of-your-seat YA fantasy.

After Reading:

It has been a while since an ending satisfied me like that. I live for these empowering endings. I genuinely thought that it’s going in one direction but it kept me on my toes the entire time. It took me a while to finish because I had to put it down and I remembered that I have to breathe. NOW THAT IS HOW YOU DO IT, FOLKS. And it’s a standalone! (Honestly I can’t believe it either.) I felt like I climbed a mountain (pun intended). Okay I’ll stop with the jokes. In all seriousness, Empress of All Seasons is a beautiful book. It was wonderfully written and there’s no denying that gushing over it and making everyone want to read it is now a goal I have in life.

“EMPRESS OF ALL SEASONS IS AMAZING AND YOU NEED IT IN YOUR LIFE. THAT’S IT. THANKS FOR COMING TO MY TED TALK.”

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As a part of the tour, I received an e-ARC of this book. Huge thanks to HMH Teen for providing copies for the tour. This does not affect my review and all of the opinions and thoughts reflected here are my own.

While this is not the first review where I am simply baffled with what I want to say, I hope to do my best with the words in my arsenal. In the best way to put it, there were so many things that went down in Empress of All Seasons that I might not be able to fully review it and actually deliver what is in store for you, dear reader.

Being the blind reader that I am, which is something I do with the majority of the books I take a keen interest upon, I did not know what to expect asides from these major factors:

  1. It is a book set in Japan and it incorporated a lot about the folklore of the country.
  2. I guessed that it obviously involved seasons. (Gee Sherlock, that’s some amazing deducing.)
  3. There will be political aspects in the discussion seeing as it is a competition to be the Empress of Honoku.

Sure enough, all of these expectations have been fully met. Going into the book blindly was an even better decision because I have no idea how it will all unfold. So to avoid rambling like a mad man, let’s start with the technicalities.

For one, Empress of All Season was smashing because of Emiko Jean’s writing style and world-building. These two components complimented each other in a way because the writing style hooks you in and it engulfs you to enter the world at the same time. The descriptive narratives were enough to give you the full picture of what is happening, what our main characters are feeling, and the overall tone of the scenes described in the chapter. It is easy to just loose yourself in this world, but it does not shy away from its imperfections. At the same time, it is fast-paced and mindful of the time frame of the story. It holds its grip on you emotionally, especially in the beautifully tragic descriptions of various emotions felt by each of our leads and the people around them.

Which leads me to my next point: Mari, Taro, and Akira whose perspectives we see within this novel. There was a stark difference with the tones of their voices, but equally young, a lit bit naive and optimistic in general. Since the story eases you in, it was quite clear on what their motives were. A lot of their actions came from what was expected from them, and it’s quite complicated to actually explain each of their sides. Rest assured though, they are all intertwined. All of them had the tone of conflict in their voice, but it was quite evident how they each grew and developed as a character. All of them were rounded amidst a cast of characters with multiple motives. Mari having to hide her yokai form to compete and win the title of Empress, Taro being shut and cold like the machines he creates but suddenly taking a keen interest in Mari, and Akira trying to prove to himself that he is a mere half-mortal and half-yokai.

(I am really doing my best not to spoil anything why is this so hard.)

Now of course with two boys and a girl in the mix, there is a possibility of a love triangle. However, this triad begs to differ. I want to keep this review spoiler-free, but the triangle that played out in this novel is not your average love triangle. In fact, the subject of love shows itself in various forms. It also delivers something new (well at least for me), because it was something else and quite sensible when you think about it.

Lastly, there is no denying that Empress of All Seasons is such a lovely book because of it taking inspiration from Japanese mythology and culture. The plot plays out like an epic – a story that is one for the ages. With side glances to stories about their gods and goddesses, it pans out like a marvelous parallel. The many yokai mentioned in the story made the world bigger and richer in lore. It made me have a larger appreciation and respect to the culture the story is derived from. I would definitely want to read more about the various gods, goddesses, deities, and creatures that shaped Japan’s mythology.

There are so many takeaways that you can get that is very much reflected on the author’s culture. The book talks about loyalty to family and one’s clan, upholding the honor of one’s family, fighting for what is right with the people who have your back. There is also the incorporation of heavy issues such as slavery, which is seen with the yokai being forced to wear collars by the emperor. The role reversal of Mari – and not Taro – having to prove herself worthy of conquering all of the seasons is another note that makes this novel a must-read.

Honestly the only problem that I had was that the novel had a slow start and there’s no denying that it is a little bit hard to grasp what the world seems to be. But other than that and as I mentioned before, once you get hooked with the writing and the anticipation there’s no turning back. It will easily make your heart race and will leave you gasping.

Empress of All Seasons is a jaw-dropping, heart-stopping, and stunning novel that goes straight to the point. It’s the perfect fantasy story to sink your teeth into if you’re craving for a vast world that will make you fall in love with its rich lore. I would gladly recommend it to my fellow readers who wants to give fantasy a fair shot, especially if you’re extra scared in committing yourself to a series. This one’s for you my friend. There is a lot to grasp, but engross yourself in this fantastic standalone.

Honestly I know my review doesn’t give the book half the justice it deserves. But it is one of the best books that I have read for 2018, and I genuinely hope that you’ll have a grand reading time like I did.

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When Emiko is not writing, she is reading. Most of her friends are imaginary. Before she became a writer she was an entomologist (fancy name for bug catcher), a candle maker, a florist, and most recently a teacher. She lives in Washington with her husband and children (unruly twins). She loves the rain.

Connect with Emiko!

Website || Twitter || Goodreads

Need more convincing to read Empress of All Seasons? Follow the rest of the tour here:

November 12 

Rafael of The Royal Polar Bear Reads

Carmel of Bookablereads

Jonathan of Wander with Jon

Nikki of Take Me Away

November 13

Vivian of Vanilla Angel Pages

Jen of Jen D Bibliophile

Jenny of Levicorpvs Blog

Hanamae of The Wraith Reads

Cristina of Girl in the Pages

November 14

Shaine of Wanderer in Neverland

Akisha of akithroughbooks

Bianca of The Ultimate Fangirl (hey, you’re here!)

Princess of  Princess and Pages

November 15

Leilanee of ofsparksandmagick

Salwa of Salwa’s Reading Solace

Dexter of Dexterous_Totalus

Avery of B for Bookslut

Kat from Novels and Waffles

November 16
November 17

Myrth of Cliste Bella

Justine of Bookish Wisps

Athena of The Night Faerie

Ramnele of Bookdragonism

Erika of The Nocturnal Fey

Huge thanks to Carmel at Bookablereads and Rafael at The Royal Polar Bear Reads for hosting this lovely tour and HMH Teen for providing us e-ARCs and making this tour possible.

Now the real question remains:

Are you excited to have a blast reading this lovely novel?

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