PH Blog Tour: Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix (Review + Giveaway)

Before Reading:

I have way too many controversial thoughts when it came to the first book of this series. But we are not here to be mean because this time it’s all about the heroine that we have all been rooting for. This time, it’s all about the girl on fire. Wait… no. Figuratively, a phoenix is a bird that rises from the ashes. So Jade is a girl on a fire. Alright, move over Katniss Everdeen. It’s Princess Jade’s time in the spotlight, and I really truly hope that she delivers. I am going into this book as optimistic as I can be, and I hope that I can overcome whatever fear that I may have for this book.

(Spoiler alert: I did. It was glorious.)


BlazingPhoenix CoverTitle: Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix

Author: Julie C. Dao

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling

ISBN: 1524738336

Date Published: 6th of November 2018

Series: Rise of the Empress #2

Publisher: Philomel Books (Penguin Random House)

Buy it on: National Bookstore Hardcover | National Bookstore PaperbackAmazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | The Book Depository


This fairy tale retelling lives in a mystical world inspired by the Far East, where the Dragon Lord and the Serpent God battle for control of the earthly realm; it is here that the flawed heroine of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns finally meets her match. An epic fantasy finale to the Rise of the Empress novels.

Princess Jade has grown up in exile, hidden away in a monastery while her stepmother, the ruthless Xifeng, rules as empress of Feng Lu. But the empire is in distress and its people are sinking into poverty and despair. Even though Jade doesn’t want the crown, she knows she is the only one who can dethrone the empress and set the world right. Ready to reclaim her place as rightful heir, Jade embarks on a quest to raise the Dragon Lords and defeat Xifeng and the Serpent God once and for all. But will the same darkness that took Xifeng take Jade, too? Or will she find the strength within to save herself, her friends, and her empire?

Set in an East Asian-inspired fantasy world filled with breathtaking pain and beauty, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is filled with dazzling magic, powerful prose, and characters readers won’t soon forget.

Fans of Stealing Snow, Red Queen, and The Wrath and the Dawn will hungrily devour this page-turning read.

After Reading:

I honestly wanted more from this story. Jade don’t leave us yet! Honestly if this book was split in half and we had to wait for another one, I would have gladly waited! It was really great and fleshed out. I want more of Jade’s Feng Lu. *cries in a corner*


As a part of the tour, I received an advanced reading copy of this book. 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.

To be fully honest, I was left in the state of being in the middle when I finished reading Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. I was furious because I simply did not want to believe that the kingdom of Feng Lu is left in the hands of such a cruel empress. I fell in the other side of the spectrum that loathed the anti-hero because everyone seemed to love her. But when it was confirmed that the second book in the series was going to focus on retelling “Snow White”, I was completely on board. I rooted for Princess Jade the moment she was hinted to exist. Upon reading this novel in its entirety, it fairly exceeded my expectations and I still loved and respected our heroine.

Let’s tackle some technical aspects first: the one thing that I loved the most about this series is its writing. Julie C. Dao’s writing style is simply magnetic, that even someone like me who’s not really into fantasy was able to inhale its story like a madman. A book with fantastical elements is out of my comfort zone. But I was able to ease in the world of Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix because her writing style can immerse a reader into the world of Feng Lu easily.

Meanwhile, the vast world in which the story is set in became richer with the travels of our heroes. While you can read Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix without reading its predecessor, having context on what went down in Forest of a Thousand Lanterns will surely leave you with a richer imagination of what the kingdom of Feng Lu is like. It was enriching to read about how vast their kingdom is through Jade’s adventure: from the deepest parts of the forest, to the depths of mighty rivers and lone islands, and deserts that go beyond what the eye can see. There was so much to explore, and it can easily make a reader giddy with excitement.

Now let’s get to our main point. In the case of its plot and characters, it was easier to get invested with Jade’s story. As I’ve noticed, the plot of the Empress series is deeply intertwined with the decisions that our leads make. When it came to Jade, she was easy to root for. She had this charming charisma, one characteristic much expected from a princess. She was also fearless and driven by her love for the people around her. Seeing her grow as the story progressed made me intensely root for her, as each page reveals how she dealt with the trickiest of situations in her adventure to save Feng Lu. Not to be biased but I see Jade as the exact opposite of Xifeng, which is probably the reason why I cannot help but cheer this girl on until the very last page. Speaking of the devil incarnate Xifeng, my aversion to her existence is still pretty much evident. She remains to be a character I live to despise. But the silver lining in every situation though: A great hero has an equally great villain. It contributed to what made this novel fantastic. With the tricky balance of good vs. evil, it made the plot similar to a rocky mountain terrain; it has its ups and downs when it came to the challenges that our heroes had to face, yet upon reaching the end of the trail, the view is breathtakingly magnificent.

Equally so, the friends that Jade gained in this novel, Wren and Koichi, were the absolute friends that anyone can ask for. Similar to Jade, they were loyal and fierce and would do anything for the people that they love. What made their group dynamic was simply because of their common goal: they all had the same motives. This is what made their bond and faithfulness to each other stronger. Though at times they clashed, their personalities complimented each other. Their equal love for their kingdom radiated throughout the pages of the novel. Their crew gained more people, but I intend to keep this review spoiler-free. Needless to say that lingering questions and presumptions made after finishing Forest of a Thousand Lanterns were answered thoroughly and directly.

Lastly, what I appreciated reading in this novel is the incorporation of the different stories that Jade and her companions utilized upon embarking on their journey to reclaim her place on the throne. It added more depth, a larger motivation, and a richer environment to the tall tale being unfolded. Somehow it made Feng Lu tangible and as silly as this may sound, may be true in a blink of an eye. There was a focus on how the stories reflected what their kingdom was. Seeing how Jade had so much respect for her history and the stories that shaped her nation was particularly endearing and is a sheer evidence of why she deserved to be in a place of power. It can truly make a reader respect and admire her.

With that said, there still are some noticeable flaws within this novel. While I truly loved it’s entirety, I found it somewhat predictable and has a tendency to lie on convenience. Although, those predictable aspects of the book somehow redeemed Forest of A Thousand Lanterns, but some of those aspects could have been expanded.

Nevertheless, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is the light to the darkness of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. The stark contrast between its two leads have never been more apparent. With that, it truly became a series worth tuning in on. Both retellings were beautiful in their own rights, but it was the ultimate conclusion of this duology that made me root for it till the end. A pristine ending fit for an empress. All the hails and praises for this marvelous novel is more than deserved. Highly recommended if you’re craving for a refreshing take on the tale of Snow White (apples included).


(Know more about my rating system here.)


Julie C. Dao

Julie C. Dao is a proud Vietnamese-American who was born in upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her Kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is her debut novel. Julie lives in New England.

Connect with Julie!

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


PH readers! Want to win a proof copy of Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao? Click on the giveaway or here if you are not redirected.

Want more blogger action and reviews to hook you in? Follow the tour schedule here:

November 5th

Erika at The Nocturnal Fey

Rafael at The Royal Polar Bear Reads

Soleil at Queen Soleil

November 6th

Jennilyn at Rurouni Jenni Reads

Erica Mae at Living a Hundred Lives

Jen at Jen D Bibliophile

November 7th

Camille at Camillea Reads

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

Vivian at Vanilla Angel Pages

November 8th

Myrth at Cliste Bella

Jenny at Levicorpvs Blog

Dani at dmcireads

November 9th

Shaine at Wanderer in Neverland

Leslie at Bibliophilekid

November 10th

Joel at Descendant of Poseidon Reads

Jon at Wander with Jon

Karina at Afire Pages

Huge thanks to Erika at The Nocturnal Fey and Rafael at The Royal Polar Bear Reads for hosting this tour and to Penguin Random House for providing the copies for this tour.

So, now the big question is: Are you excited to read Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix?


Blog Tour: What If It’s Us (Review + Playlists)

Before Reading:

Ajdjfjfjsfksijak what is air My favorite authors of all time are basically having a book baby! It’s the collaboration of the century! Who wouldn’t want to throw confettis and just dance to the beat of “CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES, COME ON!”? But of course there’s still a certain fear because you never know. Thoughts in my head ran wild, while I kept on asking on what scale this book falls in: will it make me all fuzzy and warm inside or will it downright have me bawling on the floor in a puddle of my own tears?

Still, What If It’s Us easily became one of the books that I have been dying to get my hands on for 2018. So when I got accepted to join the loveliest tour ever (thank you JM at Book Freak Revelations! I love you to the moon and back!), I just set my mood and I went on my journey to New York City.


What If It's UsTitle: What If It’s Us

Author: Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, LGBT

Date Published: 9th of October 2018

ISBN: 0062795252

Series: None

Publisher: HarperTeen


Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

After Reading:



Yeah sorry about that. Brb just going to play Dear Evan Hansen on loop if you will just excuse me. *rocks back and forth singing What It It’s Us*


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

Now that I have regained my full composure, let me begin by saying that What If It’s Us is easily one of the best books that I have read for 2018. I should know, I only have two and this was one. Jokes aside, I believe that this book deserves all of the praise that it will receive. It’s not your regular love story – it’s THAT love story in New York that is just too die for.

Having read this book in one day felt like going to an amusement park. I know what to expect because I have the itinerary, but I didn’t expect all of the fun. Becky and Adam are both favorites of mine, but I still lowered my expectations. I know that not every book is going to be perfect. That being said, it is in the simplest way possible. We get an instalove story set in New York. There’s the cutest meet cute, the messiest but downright lovable relationship, and an ending that can satisfy angst in one’s heart. With boys who believe in faith and destiny, missed connections, and in one another… Add a magnetic writing that will not let you put the book down, you get this lovely gem.

I love that there’s a stark contrast between Arthur and Ben; Arthur being such a lovable dork and you can feel his giddiness and eagerness with every flip of the page. There’s this optimism and tone in his voice that makes you want to be his friend. Ben on the other hand is a conflicted lead that you can’t help but root for because of his tendencies and confusion. There’s a feel to his struggle, but at the same time you feel him trying to be better. As their love story slowly (or rapidly) invests you to continue on with the book, their development in their relationship will leave you rooting for them till the end. Sure, it can be a bit dramatic sometimes, but what’s a Broadway play without a little tug on the heartstrings? That’s Arthur and Ben for you; flawed, imperfect, and different in style, but you can’t help but love them both.

To note, What If It’s Us also features a lovely cast that prompts wonderful family and friendship dynamics. Arthur and Ben both have such loving parents who are kind, caring, and supportive in their own ways, and there’s so much love felt. There’s also Arthur and Ben’s friends, who are many to mention but all equally wonderful and lovable. Although, one did shine brighter than the others and that’s definitely Dylan, Ben’s best friend and wingman *wink*. He’s the supporting character that I loved the most, and every moment with him was precious and hilarious. There’s this layer to his character that made him very interesting, making you think that he’s not just there for comic relief, but actually to highlight and add more depth to Big Ben’s character. And the award for best supporting actor goes to…

What also makes What If It’s Us shine is the topics that the boys tackle: Arthur’s conflict with his parents and friends, Ben’s struggle with being passed of as white and dealing with summer school so as to not repeat a grade. Asides from the drama that came with their relationship, I love how the struggles that they had to face ultimately made this book closer to the heart. I can’t quite explain it but this book is so fluffy that it makes you want to cry. Does that make sense?

All in all, What’s If It’s Us is a wonderful collaboration. It’s got that right kick of fluff and angst that leaves you drowning in feels. Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera’s writing style wonderfully fits together like they were meant to be, and they delivered a story that will leave you with the question “Do I just burst because of so many emotions?” What If It’s Us gave us Arthur and Ben, two amazing lads with such chemistry that will leave you rooting for them till the end. With heartfelt takeaways, the Broadway references, and the ambiance of New York City, you’re sure to finish this book with a big smile on your face. In the words of Adam Silvera, “Sounds gay. Can’t wait.”


(Know more about my rating system here.)

And just in case you want something to listen (but oh trust me you need this), I curated these three playlists just for you to get a feel of each perspective.

Now since Arthur is the ultimate Broadway geek, this playlist consists of some of its contemporary offerings. I loved selecting songs from different plays that conveyed Arthur’s feelings throughout the book perfectly.

With Ben, it’s more of a mix. He’s a cool guy, but he’s also got some jam in him. New York is his home, and he’s got some chill on him. With that, he’s also a classics guy at heart. His playlist was harder to curate I have to admit, but all in all it suits him well.

Inspired by the story’s alternating perspectives, this playlist is dedicated to all of the feelings that this book made me feel. Conflict, throwing caution to the wind, and believing in fate; What If It’s Us gives all the feels.


Becky Albertalli is the author of the acclaimed novels Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (film: Love, Simon), The Upside of Unrequited, and Leah on the Offbeat. She is also the co-author of What If It’s Us with Adam Silvera. A former clinical psychologist who specialized in working with children and teens, Becky lives with her family in Atlanta.

Connect with Becky!

Website || Twitter || Instagram || Goodreads

Adam Silvera is the New York Times bestselling author of More Happy Than Not, History Is All You Left Me, and They Both Die at the End. His next book What If It’s Us is co-written by Becky Albertalli (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda) and releases on October 9th, 2018.
He writes full-time in New York City and is tall for no reason.

Connect with Adam!

Twitter || Instagram || Goodreads


Win a copy of What If It’s Us (open internationally, with the exception of UK, South Africa, Australia, and India)

Want more chances of winning? Enter the Twitter and Instagram giveaway!

Again, huge thanks to JM at Book Freak Revelations for organizing this tour and HarperCollins for sponsoring.

So… ARE YOU EXCITED TO READ WHAT IF IT’S US? ARE YOU READY FOR ALL OF THE FEELS? Gosh, I seriously need to calm but I can’t help it. I’m attached because I’m in love.

But really, what’s your favorite Becky Albertalli book?

Favorite Adam Silvera book?

Did a book ever make you feel like crying while being happy at the same time?


Blog Tour: A Blade So Black (Style by Cover + Giveaway)

Hello and welcome to another stop for A Blade So Black blog tour hosted by Aimee, Always! While I will only be sharing blurbs, I have been very inspired by the lovely cover to come up with various styles. I really love the aesthetic of the cover, so I figured I would share some of the styles to what I think describes what is contained within the pages of this wonderful novel.


36952594Title: A Blade So Black

Author: L. L. McKinney

Genre: Fantasy, Retelling, Fiction

Date Published: 25th of September 2018

ISBN: 1250153905

Series: A Blade So Black # 1

Publisher: Imprint

Buy it on: Amazon || The Book Depository


The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she’s trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.

Life in real-world Atlanta isn’t always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice’s handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she’ll need to use everything she’s learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head . . . literally.

Style # 1: A Modern Alice


Alice loves her converse (though I won’t be saying more than that), and I think this style reflects how cool Alice is. The story conveys Alice as cool and complex, and she’s one who cares so much for the people that she loves. With that said, I firmly believe she’s still definitely chic while fighting the Nightmares alongside the Hatter.

Style # 2: Reimagined


Since A Blade So Black is an Alice in Wonderland retelling, its roots come from the Victorian era. There are certain elements in the story that stayed true to its predecessor, but this action-packed offering ties it to the modern era. Hence, I believe this style reflects the wonderful world compacted within the pages of this novel. Classy, but still rocking it.

Style #3: Not-Your-Average Retelling


As the story goes, it gets curiouser and curiouser. This story is not your regular retelling, for it portrays beloved characters in a whole other light. Sure, it’s set in our day. But it still conveys a delight that will make you believe you can do six impossible things before breakfast. Unexpected, but definitely worth reading about. Want a boost to Wonderland? Then this story is definitely for you.



Leatrice “Elle” McKinney, writing as L.L. McKinney, is a poet and active member of the kidlit community. She’s an advocate for equality and inclusion in publishing, and the creator of the hashtag #WhatWoCWritersHear. She’s spent time in the slush by serving as a reader for agents and participating as a judge in various online writing contests.

Elle’s also a gamer, Blerd, and adamant Hei Hei stan, living in Kansas, surrounded by more nieces and nephews than she knows what to do with. Aside from rockin’ the Favorite Aunt thing, she spends her free time plagued by her cat–Sir Chester Fluffmire Boopsnoot Purrington Wigglebottom Flooferson III, esquire, Baron o’Butterscotch or #SirChester for short–or defending the realm from the enemies of Azeroth. FOR THE HORDE!

Connect with Elle!

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Goodreads


Win a finished copy of A Blade So Black by L. L. McKinney! (US Only) Click the giveaway tag or here.

Many, many thanks to the lovely organizer of this blog tour: Aimee from Aimee Reads! Thank you for letting me join this tour.

Follow the rest of the tour here:


Aimee – Aimee, Always
Simant – Flipping Through the Pages


Alice – Married To Books Reviews and Blog

Justine – Bookish Wisps


Joanne – Once Upon a Bookcase
Bianca – The Ultimate Fangirl


Mishma – Chasing Faerytales

Flo – Book Nerds Across America


Nicole – Cuz I’m a Nerd

Faith – suckerforcoffe


Becky – Coffee Cocktails and Books

Lara – Bellibone


Liv – Liv’s Wonderful Escape

Karlita – Tale Out Loud


Jacquie – Rattle the Stars

Olivia – Olivia’s Catastrophe


Beth – The Reader’s Corner
Sophia – Bookwyrming Thoughts


Angel – Avid Reader

Lili – Utopia State of Mind

Are you also a fan of retellings? Or Alice in Wonderland in general? Are you excited to read A Blade So Black?


PH Blog Tour: Wildcard by Marie Lu (Excerpt + Giveaway)

Easily one of the most anticipated sequels of the year, Wildcard by Marie Lu is the final book in the Warcross duology. With it’s fair share of virtual reality and technological marvels, the awaited finale is sure to bring a lot in the house. The technology is bigger, the stakes are higher, and our rainbow-haired gal takes on her biggest challenge yet.

While I will not be sharing my review, I will be sharing an excerpt below. Read on to get a grasp of what to expect in Wildcard.


WildcardTitle: Wildcard

Author: Marie Lu

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Date Published: 18th of September 2018

Series: Warcross #2

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Buy it on: National Bookstore | Amazon | Audible | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | The Book Depository


Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone’s put a bounty on Emika’s head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn’t all that he seems–and his protection comes at a price.

Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?


Eight Days until the Warcross Closing Ceremony  
Someone is watching me.
I can feel it—the eerie sensation of being followed, an invisible gaze locked on my back. It prickles my skin, and as I make my way through Tokyo’s rain-soaked streets to meet up with the Phoenix Riders, I keep looking over my shoulder. People hurry by in a steady stream of colorful umbrellas and business suits, heels and oversize coats. I can’t stop imagining their downcast faces all turned in my direction, no matter which way I go.
Maybe it’s the paranoia that comes with years of being a bounty hunter. You’re on a crowded street, I tell myself. No one’s following you.
It’s been three days since Hideo’s algorithm was triggered. Technically, the world should now be the safest it’s ever been. Every single person who has used the new Henka Games contact lenses—even just once—should now be completely under Hideo’s control, rendered unable to break the law or harm another person.
Only the few who still use the beta lenses, like me, are unaffected.
So, in theory, I shouldn’t be worried about someone following me. The algorithm won’t let them do anything to hurt me.
But even as I think this, I slow down to stare at the long line wrapping around a local police station. There must be hundreds of people. They’re all turning themselves in to the authorities for anything and everything unlawful they’ve ever done, from unpaid parking tickets to petty theft—even murder. It’s been like this for the past three days.
My attention shifts to a police barricade at the end of the street. They’re directing us to detour down a different block. Ambulance lights flash against the walls, illuminating a covered gurney being lifted into the vehicle. I only need to catch a glimpse of officers pointing up at the roof of a nearby building before I figure out what occurred here. Another criminal must have jumped to their death. Suicides like this have been peppering the news.
And I helped make all of this happen.
I swallow my unease and turn away. There’s a subtle but significant blankness in everyone’s eyes. They don’t know an artificial hand is inside their minds, bending their free will.
Hideo’s hand.
The reminder is enough to make me pause in the middle of the street and close my eyes. My fists clench and unclench, even as my heart lurches at his name. I’m such an idiot.
How can the thought of him fill me with disgust and desire at the same time? How can I stare in horror at this line of people waiting in the rain outside a police station—but still blush at my dream of being in Hideo’s bed, running my hands along his back?
We’re over. Forget him. I open my eyes again and continue on, trying to contain the anger beating in my chest.
By the time I duck into the heated halls of a Shinjuku shopping center, rain is coming down in wavy sheets, smearing the reflections of neon lights against the slick pavement.
Not that the storm is stopping preparations for the upcoming Warcross closing ceremony, which will mark the end of this year’s games. With my beta lenses on, I can see the roads and sidewalks color-coded in hues of scarlet and gold. Each Tokyo district is highlighted like this right now, the streets shaded the colors of the most popular team in that neighborhood.
Overhead, a lavish display of virtual fireworks is going off, piercing the dark sky with bursts of colored light. Shinjuku district’s favorite team is the Phoenix Riders, so the fireworks here are currently forming the shape of a rising phoenix, arching its flaming neck in a cry of victory.
Every day over the next week or so, the top ten players of this year’s championships will be announced worldwide after a vote by all Warcross fans. Those ten players will compete in a final, all-star tournament during the closing ceremony, and then spend a year as the biggest celebrities in the world before they play again next spring, in the opening ceremony’s game.
Like the one I once hacked into and disrupted, that upended my entire life and landed me here.
People on the streets are proudly dressed up as their top-ten vote this year. I see a few Asher lookalikes sporting his outfit from our championship game in the White World; someone’s decked out as Jena, another as Roshan. Still others are arguing heatedly about the Final. There had obviously been a cheat—power-ups that shouldn’t have been in play.
Of course, I had done that.
I adjust my face mask, letting my rainbow hair tumble out from underneath my red raincoat’s hood. My rain boots squelch against the sidewalk. I have a randomized virtual face laid over my own, so at least people who are wearing their NeuroLink glasses or contacts will look at me and see a complete stranger. For the rare person who isn’t, the face mask should cover enough to make me blend in with everyone else wearing masks on the street.
Sugoi!” someone passing me exclaims, and when I turn, I see a pair of wide-eyed girls grinning at my hair. Their Japanese words translate into English in my view. “Wow! Good Emika Chen costume!”
They make a gesture like they want to take a photo of me, and I play along, putting up my hands in V-for-victory signs. Are you both under Hideo’s control, too? I wonder.
The girls bob their heads in thanks and move along. I adjust my electric skateboard strapped over my shoulder. It’s a good temporary disguise, pretending to be myself, but for someone used to stalking others, I still feel weirdly exposed.
Emi! Almost here?
Hammie’s message appears before me as translucent white text, cutting through my tension. I smile instinctively and quicken my steps.
It would’ve been easier, you know, if you’d just come with us.
I cast a glance over my shoulder again. It would’ve definitely been easier—but the last time I stayed in the same space as my teammates, Zero nearly killed us in an explosion.
I’m not an official Rider anymore. People would ask questions if they saw us heading out as a group tonight.
But you’d be safer if you did.
It’s safer if I didn’t.
I can practically hear her sigh. She sends the address of the bar again.
See you soon.
I pass through the mall and out the other side. Here, the colorful blocks of Shinjuku shift into the seedy streets of Kabukichō, Tokyo’s red-light district. I tense my shoulders. It’s not an unsafe area—certainly not compared to where I came from in New York—but the walls are covered with glowing screens featuring the services of beautiful girls and handsome, spiky-haired boys, along with shadier banners I don’t want to understand.
Virtual models dressed in scanty outfits stand outside bars, beckoning visitors to enter. They ignore me when they realize my profile marks me as a foreigner and turn their attention to the more lucrative Japanese locals navigating the streets.
Still, I pick up my pace. No red-light district in the world is safe.
I duck into a narrow street on the border of Kabukichō. Piss Alley, so this cluster of little walkways is called. The Riders picked it for tonight because it’s closed to tourists during the Warcross championship season. Scowling bodyguards in suits stand at the entrances and exits of the alleys, shooing away curious passersby.
I take down my disguise for a second so they can see my real identity. One bodyguard bows his head and lets me in.
Both sides of the alleys are lined with tiny sake bars and yakitori stands. Through each of their fogged glass doors, I can see the backs of other teams huddled in front of smoking grills, arguing loudly at virtual projections on the walls showing interviews with players. The scent of fresh rain mixes with aromas of garlic, miso, and fried meat.
I pull off my raincoat, shake it out, and fold it inside out into my backpack. Then I head to the last stall. This bar is a little bigger than the others, facing a quiet alley blocked off on either side. Its doorway is lit by a row of cheery red lanterns, and men in suits stand in strategic positions around it. One of them notices me and moves aside, ushering me forward.
I walk under the lanterns and enter through the sliding glass door. A curtain of warm air envelops me.
Checked into Midnight Sense Bar!
+500 Points. Daily Score: +950
Level 36 |  N120,064
I find myself standing in a cozy room with a handful of filled seats arranged around a bar, where a chef is busy putting out bowls of ramen. He pauses to call out my arrival.
A round of greetings hits me as everyone turns in my direction.
There’s Hammie, our Thief, and Roshan, our Shield. Asher, our Captain, is sitting on one of the stools with his stylish wheelchair folded behind him. Even Tremaine, who technically plays for the Demon Brigade, is here. He keeps his elbows propped up on the bar as he nods at me through the steam rising from his bowl. He’s sitting away from Roshan, who’s fiddling with a bracelet of prayer beads on his wrist and making a point of ignoring his former boyfriend.
My team. My friends. The eerie feeling of being watched subsides as I take in their faces.
Hammie waves me over. I slide gratefully into the empty stool beside her. The chef puts down a bowl of ramen before me and steps out to give us privacy. “The whole city’s celebrating,” I mutter. “People have no idea what Hideo’s done.”
She starts pulling her curls tight into a thick pouf high on her head. Then she juts her chin at a virtual screen playing footage from the Final against the wall. “You’re just in time,” she replies. “Hideo’s about to make his announcement.”
We stare at the screen as Hammie pours me a cup of tea. It now shows a room of reporters with their faces turned toward a massive stage, all waiting impatiently for Hideo to arrive. Kenn, the Warcross creative director, and Mari Nakamura, Henka Games’ chief operating officer, are already there, whispering to each other.
The room on the screen suddenly bursts into commotion as Hideo walks onstage. He straightens the lapels of his suit jacket once as he strides over to join his companions, shaking hands as he goes with his usual cool, careful grace.
Even the sight of him onscreen feels as overwhelming as if he’d walked right into this bar. All I see is the same boy I’ve watched my whole life, the face I’d stop to look for at newsstands and take in on TV. I dig my nails into the counter, trying not to show how embarrassingly weak it makes me feel.
Hammie notices. She casts me a sympathetic glance. “No one expects you to be over him already,” she says. “I know he’s trying to take over the world and all, but he still rocks a suit harder than a Balmain catwalk.”
Asher scowls. “I’m right here.”
“I didn’t say I wanted to date him,” Hammie replies, reaching over to pat Asher’s cheek once.
I look on as Hideo and Kenn talk in low voices and wonder how much Kenn and Mari know about Hideo’s plans. Has the entire company been in on this all along? Is it possible to keep such a thing secret? Would that many people take part in something so awful?
“As you all know,” Hideo begins, “a cheat was activated during the Final of this year’s championship that benefited one team—the Phoenix Riders—over the other—Team Andromeda. After reviewing the matter with our creative team”—he pauses to glance at Kenn—“it seems the cheat was activated not by one of the players, but by an outside party. We’ve decided the best way to resolve this, then, is to hold an official rematch between Team Andromeda and the Phoenix Riders, four days from today. This will be followed by the closing ceremony four days later.”
An instant buzz of conversation fills the room at Hideo’s words. Asher leans back and frowns at the screen. “Well, it’s happening,” he says to us all. “An official rematch. We’ve got three days to get ready.”
Hammie slurps up a mouthful of noodles. “An official rematch,” she echoes, although there’s no enthusiasm in her voice. “Never happened in the history of the championships.”
“Gonna be a lot of Phoenix Rider haters out there,” Tremaine adds. Already, a few shouts of “Cheaters!” can be clearly heard from the other bars outside.
Asher shrugs. “Nothing we haven’t faced before. Isn’t that right, Blackbourne?”
Tremaine’s expression is blank. The excitement of the new game is lost on all of us as we continue to stare at the screen. A rematch isn’t the big news. If only those reporters knew what Hideo was really doing with the NeuroLink.
I’m tired of the horror in the world, he’d said to me. So I will force it to end.
“Well,” Roshan begins, rubbing a hand across his face, “if Hideo’s bothered by anything that’s happened in the last few days, he’s not showing it.”
Tremaine’s concentrating on something invisible in his view and tapping rapidly against the bar. A few weeks ago, I would’ve bristled at being in the same room as him. He still isn’t my favorite person, and I keep waiting for him to sneer and call me Princess Peach again, but for now he’s on our side. And we can use all the help we can get.
“Find anything?” I ask him.
“I dug up some solid numbers on how many people have the new lenses.” Tremaine sits back and huffs out a sigh. “Ninety-eight percent.”
I could cut the silence in here like a cake. Ninety-eight percent of all users are now controlled by Hideo’s algorithm. I think of the long lines, the police tape. The sheer scale of it makes me dizzy.
“And the other two percent?” Asher manages to ask.
“Is made up of anybody still using the beta test lenses,” Tremaine replies, “and who haven’t switched over yet. Those folks are safe for now.” He peers around the bar. “Us, of course, and a number of the official players, since we got the beta lenses before the full version went out. A lot of people in the Dark World, I bet. And the tiny number of people worldwide who don’t use the NeuroLink at all. That’s it. Everybody else is locked in.”
No one wants to add anything to that. I don’t say it out loud, but I know we can’t stay on the beta lenses forever. Word on the street is that those lenses will download a patch that converts them into algorithm lenses on the day of the Warcross closing ceremony.
That’s happening in eight days.
“Seven days of freedom left,” Asher finally says, voicing what we’re all thinking. “If you want to rob a bank, now’s your chance.”
I glance at Tremaine. “Any luck digging up more info about the algorithm itself?”
He shakes his head and pulls up a screen for all of us to see. It’s a maze of glowing letters. “I can’t even find the faintest trace of it. See this?” He stops to point at a block of code. “The main log-on sequence? Something should be here.”
“You’re saying it’s impossible that there’s an algorithm here,” I reply.
“I’m saying it’s impossible, yes. It’s like watching a chair float in midair without any wires.”
It’s the same conclusion I came up with over the past few sleepless nights. I’d spent them searching every crevice of the NeuroLink. Nothing. However Hideo is implementing his algorithm, I can’t find it.
I sigh. “The only way to access it might be through Hideo himself.”
On the screen, Hideo is answering questions from the press now. His face is serious, his stance easy, and his hair perfectly tousled. As put together as ever. How does he stay so calm? I lean forward, as if the few moments we’d had together in our brief relationship were enough for me to see what he’s thinking.
My dream from last night flashes through my mind again, and I can almost feel his hands running down my bare arms, his expression undone. I’m sorry, he’d whispered. Then, the dark silhouette watching me from the corner of the room. The glass all around us shattering.
“And what about you?” Tremaine says, snapping me out of my reverie. “Heard anything new from Zero? Have you contacted Hideo?”
I take a deep breath and shake my head. “I haven’t reached out to anyone. Not yet, anyway.”
“You’re not still seriously thinking about Zero’s offer, are you?” Asher has his head propped against one hand, and he’s looking warily at me. It’s the same expression he used to give me as a Captain, whenever he thought I wasn’t going to listen to his commands. “Don’t do it. It’s obviously a trap.”
“Hideo was a trap, too, Ash,” Hammie says. “And none of us saw that coming.”
“Yeah, well, Hideo never tried to blow up our dorm,” Asher mutters. “Look—even if Zero is serious about wanting Emi to join him in stopping Hideo, there’s got to be some strings attached. He’s not exactly a model citizen. His help might come with more problems than it’s worth.”
Tremaine rests his elbows against the counter. I’m still not used to seeing genuine concern on his face, but it’s comforting. A reminder that I’m not alone. “If you and I work together, Em, we can try to avoid Zero’s help. There have got to be hints about Sasuke Tanaka out there somewhere.”
“Sasuke Tanaka vanished without a trace,” Roshan says. His quiet voice is cool and cutting as he wraps a length of noodle around his chopsticks.
Tremaine glances at him. “There is always a trace,” he replies.
Asher speaks up before things turn more awkward between Roshan and Tremaine. “What if you contact Hideo first? Tell him you found out that his brother’s alive. You said he created all of this—Warcross, the algorithm—because of his brother, right? Wouldn’t he do anything for him?”
In my mind, I see Hideo look at me. Everything I do is because of him. He’d said that to me only a couple of weeks ago, in the steam of a hot spring, as we watched the stars wink into existence.
Even then, he’d been planning his algorithm. His words take on new meaning now, and I shrink inward, the warmth of that memory hardening into ice.
If Zero really is his brother,” I reply.
“Are you saying he isn’t? We all saw it.”
“I’m saying I can’t be sure.” I stir the noodles around my bowl, unable to work up an appetite.
Hammie tilts her head thoughtfully, and I can see the cogs of her chess mind working. “It could be someone who stole Sasuke’s identity. It could be someone trying to throw people off his trail by using a dead boy’s name.”
“Ghosting,” I murmur in agreement. I know the term for it because I’ve done it before.
“Emi can’t tell Hideo something this big if it might not even be true,” Hammie continues. “It could make him do something unpredictable. We need proof first.”
Roshan suddenly gets up. His chair scoots back with a grating clatter against the floor. I glance abruptly up to see him turning his back to us and heading out of the bar through the sliding door.
“Hey,” Hammie calls out. “You okay?”
He pauses to look back at us. “Okay with what? That we’re all sitting here, talking about the technicalities of how Emi should throw herself into a situation that might kill her?”
The rest of us halt in our conversation, words hanging unspoken in the air. I’ve never heard real anger in Roshan’s voice before, and the sound seems wrong.
He looks around at his teammates before letting his eyes settle on me. “You don’t owe Hideo anything,” he says softly. “You did what you were hired to do. It’s not your responsibility to dig deeper into this—into Zero’s past or what happened between him and Hideo or even what he plans on doing to Hideo.”
“Emi’s the only one who—” Asher begins.
“Like you’ve always looked out for what she needs,” Roshan snaps back. My eyebrow raises in surprise.
“Roshan,” Asher says, watching him carefully.
But Roshan tightens his lips. “Look—if Zero’s team is still set on stopping Hideo, then let him do it. Let the two of them go at each other. Step back and remove yourself from this. You don’t have to do it. And none of us should be convincing you of anything different.”
Before I can respond, Roshan turns away and heads out into the night air. The door slides shut behind him with a sharp bang. Around me, the others let out an inaudible breath.
Hammie shakes her head when I look at her. “It’s because he’s here,” she mutters, nodding to Tremaine. “He throws Roshan off.”
Tremaine clears his throat uncomfortably. “He’s not wrong,” he finally says. “About the danger, I mean.”
I stare at the space where Roshan had been and picture his prayer beads sliding against his wrist. In my view, I can still see the last message from Zero sitting in my archives, the letters small and white and waiting.
My offer to you still stands.
Hammie sits back and crosses her arms. “Why are you going on with this?” she asks me.
“Is the fate of the world not enough of a reason?”
“No, there’s more to it than that.”
Irritation rises in my chest. “This is all happening because of me—I was directly involved.”
Hammie doesn’t back down from the edge in my words. “But you know it’s not your fault. Tell me—why?
I hesitate, not wanting to say it. In the corner of my view, I see Hideo’s profile haloed in green. He’s awake and online. It’s enough to make me want to reach out and Link with him.
I hate that he still has this pull on me. After all, everyone has had that one person they can’t help but obsess over. It’s not like I haven’t enjoyed flings that came and went in the span of a few weeks. And yet . . .
He’s more than a fling or a bounty or a mark. He’s forever bound to my history. The Hideo who has stolen the world’s free will is still the same Hideo who grieved his brother so deeply that it left a permanent thread of silver in his dark hair. The same Hideo who loves his mother and father. The same Hideo who once lifted me out of my darkness and dared me to dream of better things.
I refuse to believe that he’s nothing more than a monster. I can’t watch him sink like this. I keep going because I need to find that boy again, the beating heart buried underneath his lie. I have to stop him in order to save him.
He was once the hand that pulled me up. Now I have to be his.
By  the  time  we  leave  the  bar,  it’s  well  past  midnight,  and  the pouring rain has dwindled to a fine mist. Some people still dot the streets. The first two all-star players have just been announced, and virtual figures of them now hover under every streetlight in the city. 
Hammie barely glances at the images of her best in-game moves now dancing below the light posts. “You should head back with us,” she says, eyeing the neighborhood.
“I’ll be fine,” I reassure her. If someone really is following me, best not to make it so that they’re following my teammates, too.
“It’s Kabukichō, Em.”
I give her a wry smile. “So? Hideo’s algorithm is running on most of these people now. What’s there to be afraid of?”
“Very funny,” Hammie responds with an exasperated lift of her eyebrow.
“Look, we shouldn’t all be traveling together. You know that makes us too tempting a target, regardless of the algorithm. I’ll call you when I’m in back in my hotel.”
Hammie hears the note of finality in my voice. Her lips twist in frustration, but then she nods and starts to walk away. “Yeah, you better,” she says over her shoulder, waving her hand at me as she hurries off.
I watch her join the others as they head toward the subway station, where a private car waits for them. I try to picture each of them before they were famous, the first times they arrived in Tokyo, whether or not they felt invisible enough to take the subway. Whether they felt alone.
When my teammates disappear into the haze of rain, I turn away.
I’m used to traveling by myself. Still, my solitude feels sharper now, and the space around me seems emptier without my teammates. I shove my hands back into my pockets and try to ignore the virtual male model that now saunters up to me with a smile, inviting me in English into one of the host clubs that line the street.
“Nope,” I reply to him. He vanishes immediately, then resets at the entrance of the club and looks for another potential customer.
I tuck the rest of my hair completely under my hood and keep going. Just a week ago, I probably would’ve been walking with Hideo beside me. His arm wrapped around my waist, his coat over my shoulders. He might’ve been laughing at something I said.
But I’m on my own here, listening to the lonely splash of my boots in the dirty street puddles. The echo of water dripping from signs and overhangs keeps distracting me. It sounds like someone else’s footsteps. The feeling of being watched has returned.
A static buzz vibrates in my ears. I pause for a moment at an intersection, tilting my head this way and that until it stops.
I glance again at Hideo’s green-haloed icon in my view. Where is he now, and what is he doing? I imagine contacting him, his virtual form appearing before me, as Asher’s question rings in my ears. What if I did tell him about Zero’s connection to his brother? Would it be so bad to see what happens, even without being entirely sure?
I clench my teeth, annoyed with myself for thinking of excuses to hear his voice. If I just give myself enough distance from him and focus on this whole thing like it’s a job, then maybe I’ll stop wanting to be near him so much.
The static buzzes in my ear again. This time I halt and listen carefully. Nothing. Only a few people are on the street with me now, each a nondescript silhouette. Maybe someone’s trying to hack me. I start an inspection of my NeuroLink system to make sure everything’s in order. Green text floats past my view, the scan looking normal.
Until it skips over running a diagnostic on my messages.
I frown, but before I can examine it closer, all the text vanishes from my view. It’s replaced by a single sentence.
I’m still waiting, Emika.
Every hair on the back of my neck rises. It’s Zero.



Marie Lu is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling series The Young Elites, as well as the blockbuster bestselling Legend series. She graduated from the University of Southern California and jumped into the video game industry as an artist. Now a full-time writer, she spends her spare time reading, drawing, playing games, and getting stuck in traffic. She lives in Los Angeles with her illustrator/author husband, Primo Gallanosa, and their dogs.


Win a copy of Wildcard by Marie Lu! Click the giveaway tag or here.

Huge thanks to Rafael at The Royal Polar Bear Reads for letting me join this blog tour and for Penguin Random House in providing copies for the tour. You are all amazing. *hugs*

Follow the rest of the tour here:

September 3 : 
September 4 :
Mary Jane @ The Book Dragon
September 5 :
Nikki @ Book Allure
Avy Marielle @ The Reading Fangeek
September 6 :
Soleil @ Queen Soleil
September 7 :
Floricci @ Wanderlust Reader
September 10 :
Kat @ Kat Reads PH
September 11 :
Jonathan @ Wander with Jon
September 12 :
Jenny @ Levicorps Blog
September 13 :
Carmel @ Bookable Reads
September 14 :
Myrth @ Cliste Belle
*will be updating when the tour stops are completed.

Are you excited for Wildcard?


PH Blog Tour: Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes? (+ Giveaway)

Before Reading:

“Wait… Holly has a new book out? SIGN ME UP.”

That was essentially my reaction once I learned that Holly Bourne has a new book coming out this year. Basically, any opportunity for me to read her books will not pass by. So when Erika at The Nocturnal Fey once again hosted a tour for Holly’s new release, my hands went all ninja for the sign-up form. Since I started this blog, I have been a fan of Holly Bourne. But long story short: I love Holly and her writing style. I’m pretty sure I can read her new book in one sitting. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t but in a good way.)


Cover (1)Title: Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes?

Author: Holly Bourne

Genre: Contemporary, Mental Health

Date Published: 9th of August 2018

ISBN: 9781474933612

Series: None

Publisher: Usborne Publishing

Buy it on: Usborne |AmazonKobo | iBooks | Book Depository | Waterstones

Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes is also available at National Bookstore branches nationwide for PH readers!


Welcome to Camp Reset, a summer camp with a difference. A place offering a shot at “normality” for Olive, a girl on the edge, and for the new friends she never expected to make – who each have their own reasons for being there. Luckily Olive has a plan to solve all their problems. But how do you fix the world when you can’t fix yourself?

After Reading:

My initial reaction after finishing this book goes like this, “Well, aren’t you just a peach?” (Pun intended because the copies for the tour were pink *laughs*) With that in mind,  I cannot help but compare it to her past work. Although Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes is hard-hitting as well, there’s something different about it. The overall tone and the character development is something to point out on. It was also realistically blunt.


Speaking as a Holly Bourne fan, I’m not going to lie when I say that I had some pretty high expectations for this book. But of course I still had to read it and not just give the 5-star bomb right then and there. Then I met the main character Olive and the circumstances that went with her story. Let’a start with the premise.

Olive has been chosen to go to Camp Reset, since she has been dealing with mental health issues that she chose not to exactly know to avoid labeling herself. In Camp Reset, she goes through various sessions that help her realize thoughts and actions that would not only affect her, but everyone else. Hence the birth of the slogan ‘ #Kindness is contagious‘. What I loved about this book is that it was emotionally blunt and raw, each page bursting with emotions and thoughts that work like the human mind. It’s like the manifestation of a soliloquy in one’s head. The realness and the way the book is presented is also reflected in on Olive. She’s flawed, and she admits that going a few pages in. Not many people like her, especially girls her age. She is fully aware of what she is. As a reader, I found this complexity and honesty in her character frustrating at times. But it is also what made me (and maybe other readers as well) keep on reading. It’s her journey in camp and her interaction with the others that made this book a good read.

With that said, I love the friendship dynamic that grew into this story. It was the support and the kindness that really stuck with me. While the other campers were also great, I really loved the development of the characters of Lewis and Sophie in particular. I love the way they brought out a particular side of Olive’s character, and the way they grew in story. It made me want to cheer for them and hope for all the best.

However, what shined in this book the best is Holly Bourne’s magnetic and brutally honest writing style. The punches were real, and the book managed to encapsulate such strong feelings in almost 400 pages. It didn’t feel like it had that intimidating number of pages because quite frankly, I wanted to read more. There was this little voice in the back of head wanting to read more about Olive and Camp Reset. All of the hard-hitting notes were needed to be said. I also admire the way this book explained how a certain type of disorder was like. The way it was thoroughly expounded made me grasp the context of it and how a person going through that disorder feels. Holly Bourne made me understand the “highs” and the “lows” and for that, I am thankful that this books exists.

For me, Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes is a very important book to read. Mental health matters as much as our physical health, and Holly’s book reiterates that in all of its 400-paged glory. It’s not perfect, but the message it wants to convey is something we have to keep in mind and do our best to manifest in our daily lives.


(Know more about my rating system here.)


Holly Bourne

Holly Bourne writes YA novels and blogs about feminist issues. Her favourite things to complain loudly about are: the stigma of mental health, women’s rights, and the under-appreciation of Keanu Reeves’ acting ability.

Holly’s first two books, Soulmates and The Manifesto on How to be Interesting, have been critically acclaimed and translated into six languages. The first book in the ‘Normal’ series, Am I Normal Yet?, has been chosen as a World Book Night book for 2016 and has inspired the formation of Spinster Clubs around the country.

Before becoming a full-time author, Holly was editor and relationship advisor for a charity website.

Connect with Holly!

Blog | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads

As today is the release day of Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes, I decided to participate in today’s prompt of 11 Days of Kindness Challenge. Here’s what I want to say to my 3rd year in college self, because she might have badly needed this then. Keep rendering those scenes!



One lucky PH reader has the chance to win a copy of Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes. Click the giveaway icon or be redirected here.

Thank you so much to Erika from The Nocturnal Fey for letting me join this lovely tour. Your kindness has reached a lot of people, me included. ❤ Thank you to Usborne Publishing as well for sending review copies our way. Follow the rest of the tour here (will be linking their respective reviews soon):

August 8th
The Nocturnal Fey  – Erika (Review)
Rurouni Jenni Reads  – Jennilyn (Review)
Tesairie’s Book Reads  – Desyerie (Promo post)

August 9th
Bibliophile Soprano  – Fay (Review)
eirareads  – Eira (Promo post)

August 10th
Merv Reads  – Mervilyn (Review)
Amidst the Pages  – Imogene (Review)
The Reading Fangeek  – Avy (Promo Post)

August 11th
That Bookshelf Bitch  – Shealea (Review)
Wanderer in Neverland  – Shaine (Review)
The Royal Polar Bear Reads  – Rafael (Review)

August 12th
Wander with Jon  – Jon (Review)
Diary of an Avid Reader  – Areli (Review)
Novel Thief  – Joefel (Promo post)

Have you read Holly’s newest release? Do you also believe that kindness is contagious?



PH Blog Tour: All of This is True

Before Reading:

In all that is good and honest in this world, I genuinely went into this book blind. I have heard of Lygia’s debut novel Unscripted Joss Byrd, but being the topsy-turvy bookworm that I am is the reason why I haven’t read it yet. Now funny thing is that when this was teased, I was genuinely intrigued about the premise. All it said was, “Four YA-obsessed teens befriend their favorite novelist. What happens next will shock you.” My mind went all, “Are you messing with me?” Months later, I met up with a few bookish friends, discussing about books and all, with me struggling to relate because I was in a huge slump. And then I was asked by JM from Book Freak Revelations to join the tour and I was like, “YES! NOW I KNOW WHAT TO READ NEXT HUZZAH!”.

“… oh sweet niblets just what have I gotten myself into?” (Bianca, while reading the book and reminding herself to breathe)


35068735Title: All of This is True

Author: Lygia Day Peñaflor

Genre: Contemporary, Mystery

Age Bracket: Young Adult

Date Published: 15th of May 2018

Series: None

Publisher: HarperTeen

Buy it on: Barnes & Noble | AmazonBook Depository


Miri Tan loved the book Undertow like it was a living being. So when she and her friends went to a book signing to meet the author, Fatima Ro, they concocted a plan to get close to her, even if her friends won’t admit it now. As for Jonah, well—Miri knows none of that was Fatima’s fault.

Soleil Johnston wanted to be a writer herself one day. When she and her friends started hanging out with her favorite author, Fatima Ro, she couldn’t believe their luck—especially when Jonah Nicholls started hanging out with them, too. Now, looking back, Soleil can’t believe she let Fatima manipulate her and Jonah like that. She can’t believe that she got used for a book.

Penny Panzarella was more than the materialistic party girl everyone at the Graham School thought she was. She desperately wanted Fatima Ro to see that, and she saw her chance when Fatima asked the girls to be transparent with her. If only she’d known what would happen when Fatima learned Jonah’s secret. If only she’d known that the line between fiction and truth was more complicated than any of them imagined. . . .

After Reading:

Where do I begin with this? To be honest, I only trusted the tagline of this book and I let it do its purpose. I didn’t even read the synopsis on Goodreads. How I put so much blind faith on every book I read is beyond me. But this book left me in a state of shock. If I’m the ultimate fangirl, the girls in this book are way, way beyond me. Is all of it true? Honestly, I don’t know either.


Before we begin, I would just like to say that this story is the hardest book that I have reviewed for the blog. While I knew for sure that I wouldn’t change my rating, I still had a hard time putting my feelings into a comprehensible review. It’s a bit hard to just say, “SWEET HOLY GUACAMOLE. HOW EVEN IS THIS BOOK? MY INNER CORE IS SHAKING.” But hey, I really tried. Let’s start with the plot and setting of our story. If you judge it base on the title, you are bound to think that something is obviously sketchy. The same thing happened to me. It kept me on my toes and it brought out the best questions in me. I mean what can beat meeting and befriending your favorite author, right? Turns out, readers are in for a ride that will keep them guessing, thinking, and wondering if all of it was true. The format really brought the best out of it; the book was written through a series of video transcriptions, book excerpts, and journal entries. In addition to that, we get the perspective of our three protagonists: Miri, Soleil, and Penny. But why did it leave me speechless and at a loss for words? Taking spoilers out of the way, it’s how reality was interwoven with fiction. There was a thin line that the girls had to deal with, and the twists were undeniably sharp.

Nonetheless, it was a character-driven story. The book centered on 5 major figures, though we only get to see the two of them through the goggles of our main protagonists. I like to describe them as the fanatic, the reformed, the outsider, the lost soul, and the enigma. While it was hard to distinguish Miri and Penny’s voices at first, they became two rounded characters given their point-of-view for the whole situation. I came to like Penny’s voice the best, Soleil comes second, and Miri the least. I resonated with Penny’s character the most, with the thoughts that she had deal with when hanging with her Undertow-obsessed friends. Meanwhile when it comes to Soleil, she develops as she reaches certain points in the story. While it might not be the best, it shows that she is more than what she seems on the outside. Last but not the least, despite liking her character less, I believe that Miri has a strong personality and I admire that about her. Then there’s the enigma and the lost soul: Fatima Ro and Jonah. Though without perspective, they were both intriguing characters. They remain a mystery and act like a chess player and a grand master. Who is which is for you to find out.

Ultimately, All of This is True delivers a contemporary mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It will leave you speechless and at a loss for words. The writing leaves you wanting for more, with its free flow and magnetic style. But all in all, you’ll have to read it to believe it. Sometimes if it’s too good to be true, there’s bound to be ridiculous catch. The question is: do you believe it’s all true?


(Know more about my rating system here.)



Lygia became a writer by writing letters to a friend she met on a cruise ship when she was 14. She is the author of Unscripted Joss Byrd (Macmillan) and All of This Is True, which will be published by HarperTeen US, Bloomsbury UK, and translated in six countries in  summer 2018.

Lygia also teaches child stars on television and movie sets. Her students have included cast members of Gossip Girl, Boardwalk Empire, Law & Order SVU, I Am Legend, and others. She lives with her husband on Long Island where she rides horses and watches reruns of everything. 

Connect with Lygia:

Twitter || Website

Huge thanks to JM at Book Freak Revelations for hosting the blog tour for this book.

See the rest of the tour here:

Miel at Bookish and Awesome

Leslie at Bibliophilekid


Blog Tour: The Way You Make Me Feel

Before Reading:

To be honest, I judged a book by its cover again. I skimmed the synopsis and then just said to myself, “Hey, this sounds like an interesting read.” Despite not having read Maurene Goo’s novel I Believe In A Thing Called Love, I have heard nothing but praises from my close friends who have read it. It’s been a trend with me nowadays; reading an author’s latest book. But as they say, you’ll never know until you decide to do it. That’s why I joined this lovely blog tour hosted by Tin at The Book Maiden.

Little did I know that I was up for an amazing summer filled with romance, food trucks, and FOOD. Gosh darn it.


cover (1)Title: The Way You Make Me Feel

Author: Maurene Goo

Genre: Contemporary

Age Bracket: Young Adult

Date Published: 8th of May 2018

Series: None

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc.

Buy it on: Barnes & Noble| AmazonBook Depository


From the author of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a laugh-out-loud story of love, new friendships, and one unique food truck.

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

With Maurene Goo’s signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.

After Reading:

Woah hey there. Hold your horses because wow. That was certainly refreshing. It’s like drinking extra cold coconut juice on a hot summer day. The Inside Out voices in my head are probably going at it right now. Alright, let’s get into it.


So what did I feel while reading The Way You Make Me Feel? Well, it made me feel a lot of things right at the beginning. Readers won’t know what will hit them, because Clara Shin is a force to be reckoned with. Rose Carver should know, because she has been a victim of Clara’s shenanigans since who knows when. But they still went at it and got to each other’s throats. Thus, our tale takes on the summer heat and took advantage of its marvelous LA setting.

The Way You Make Me Feel is definitely a character-driven story, (if you could also call it food-centric, I would also approve) as it really focused on the development of everyone. Despite this, Clara still takes hold of the narrative. While I prefer Rose (we’ll talk more about her later) over Clara, there were moments in the story where I just couldn’t help but admire this girl’s spunk. She has a cool sense of humor and a witty spirit. There were times where I had to compose myself because of her funny remarks. I can see why someone would go head over heels for her. *cough* Hamlet *cough* Though I found her attitude and personality annoying at first, her true intentions and heart full of compassion made me root for her till the end.

Clara’s relationship with her parents, particularly with her dad, became one of the firm grounds of which the book stands on. Adrian is such a cool Pai, and Clara is lucky to have him. (I mean, I also want my dad to cook kimchi but you don’t see me complaining.) But despite his cool exterior, Adrian is a loving yet stern Pai who only wants the best for his daughter. There is no doubt that he loves Clara very much, and cares deeply about her and the future she has to face. Do we give out awards for best dads in literature? Adrian is a really strong candidate because not only does he run the coolest Korean-Brazilian fusion truck, but he does it in style and he still has the time to be Clara’s loving Pai. He deserves all of the happiness in the world.

This story would not be complete without Rose Carver and Hamlet Wong. Rose, being Clara’s rival and Hamlet as her genuine lover. Before connecting with Clara, I already had a soft spot for Rose. I was actually rooting for her, because in real life, Clara is this person who I would clash with if I ever meet someone like her. Rose had her reasons, mainly because her family raised her to become a seasoned player with a bright future ahead of her. She is pretty cool to begin with, and her chemistry with Clara is something readers should anticipate to develop while reading. Hamlet, on the other hand, came like the wind. He’s just so perfect. Like a Disney prince, he comes in sweeping our main girl off her feet. I wasn’t quite comfortable with the pace of their romance, but they have their moments. It’s not at all bad, but it was rather quick. They were cute together, and having Hamlet around will let the readers unveil another layer to Clara’s character.

In summary, The Way You Make Me Feel can and will make you feel a whirlwind of emotions. It’s a wonderful book, perfect enough to be read during the summer with its swift-paced writing and agile characters. It’s a beautiful story that lovingly highlights family, friendships, summer love, and food (YES, the food). Highly recommended to readers who would love to spice up their summer TBRs with a kick-ass leading lady who has deep love for Korean-Brazilian cooking.

P.S. Prepare your wallets because I swear, after you read this book, you will ridiculously crave for Korean/Brazilian food. Honestly, I just want to knaw on some bulgogi and rush to the nearest Korean barbecue place. I also bribed my mom to buy tortilla and some fresh tomatoes.


(Know more about my rating system here.)


Maurene goo

Maurene Goo grew up in a Los Angeles suburb surrounded by floral wallpaper and piles of books. She studied communication at UC San Diego and then later received a Masters in publishing, writing, and literature at Emerson College. Before publishing her first book, Since You Asked, she worked in both textbook and art book publishing. She also has very strong feelings about tacos and houseplants and lives in Los Angeles.

Now look what we have here! A playlist for The Way You Make Me Feel featuring summer loving songs to get you in the mood while reading. I hope you like the song selection. 😉


(Win a hardbound copy of The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo [open intl])

Again, huge thanks to Tin at The Book Maiden for hosting this blog tour with Macmillan, who were kind to send us review copies.

Now, are you excited to read The Way You Make Me Feel?


PH Blog Tour: Down and Across {Review + Giveaway}

Before Reading:

As soon as it was announced, Down and Across easily became one of my most anticipated reads for 2018. I had a lot of rare moments regarding this book, especially since it is that ONE BOOK where I actually read the summary at the back. Then I cried, because ninjas began cutting onions. Kidding aside, I cried because at that very moment (believe me, I had the chills) I was feeling the exact same thing. EVERY STANZA OF THE SUMMARY hitting me like a pile of bricks. Just change ‘college applications’ to ‘company’ and we’re good to go. Actually, the comparison doesn’t stop there. Soon you’ll see that Scott’s story actually parallels many of our teenage dilemmas.

So when JM from Book Freak Revelations asked me if I wanted to join the tour for this book, I SAID YES immediately. No questions asked. I was too psyched to read it and I practically flailed because “HELLO I AM JUST ABOUT TO READ ONE OF MY MOST ANTICIPATED READ FOR 2018 EARLY. HOW LUCKY CAN I GET?” Forgive my random fangirling. Let’s get to it, shall we?


35134061Title: Down and Across

Author: Arvin Ahmadi

Genre: Contemporary, Fiction

Age Bracket: Young Adult

Date Published: 6th of February 2018

Series: None

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers

Buy it on: National Bookstore | AmazonBook Depository


Scott Ferdowsi has a track record of quitting. Writing the Great American Novel? Three chapters. His summer internship? One week. His best friends know exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives, but Scott can hardly commit to a breakfast cereal, let alone a passion.

With college applications looming, Scott’s parents pressure him to get serious and settle on a career path like engineering or medicine. Desperate for help, he sneaks off to Washington, DC, to seek guidance from a famous professor who specializes in grit, the psychology of success.

He never expects an adventure to unfold out of what was supposed to be a one-day visit. But that’s what Scott gets when he meets Fiora Buchanan, a ballsy college student whose life ambition is to write crossword puzzles. When the bicycle she lends him gets Scott into a high-speed chase, he knows he’s in for the ride of his life. Soon, Scott finds himself sneaking into bars, attempting to pick up girls at the National Zoo, and even giving the crossword thing a try–all while opening his eyes to fundamental truths about who he is and who he wants to be.

After Reading:

Fangirl council: Raise your hand if you have been totally smitten by Scott “Saaket” Ferdowsi.


You see, Down and Across is a wonderful gem. You read and in one way or another, you see yourself. After reading the story, I was keeping myself from screaming at the author himself. I seriously couldn’t contain myself because:

  1. I was contemplating if a flight to America is possible, just so I could personally hug Arvin Ahmadi for all the feels.
  2. Is Scott Ferdowsi real and if so, is he reachable by any means?
  3. This book is scarily accurate with all the feelings I thought I was messed up to think about.


If I have to describe this book with using only one word, it would have to be: GRITTY. Scott made a decision that would make an impact on his life forever, by taking a risk and going to Washington, DC. He wants to find something he wants to be gritty about, and his adventures took it to another level. Now before you expect something, honestly it’s not grand if you think about it but it is one of a kind. There’s just thrill in the unknown because it works in mysterious ways. Down and Across knows what it wants to be, and it easily became a book solely about a boy who wants something to be passionate about in his life. As we go along through his journey, his thoughts were still profound and fascinating. The ‘puzzled’ teen that he is (yes, I know! Pun score!), he makes the absolute sense. And even with the array of characters, the focus remains on Scott, and how his character grows as a person through every unknown thrown at him. Fiora, who is unpredictable and witty. Dr. Cecilly Mallard, who piques Scott’s interest with grit. Trent, Fiora’s best friend and best guy in the whole world. And many more who are equally hilarious and horrible at the same time. *winks*

A runner-up word would have to be: RELATABLE. It was easy to relate to Scott on so many levels. Case in point: Parents who want the best for you but are very strict on what “the best” is? Check. Friends who know what they want to be? Check. Feeling like you’re not good, the best, because you’re not even sure if you want to do it all? CHECK. See my point? His journey alone remind us how we strive to find what to be gritty about. Why you even try and find yourself in the process. There’s this tiny bit of each and everyone in Scott. He just gets you and he will get you. This is the reason why you would want to tag along with him (and maybe in the process will make you think as well).

Last word to describe it would have to be: IMPORTANT. Arvin Ahmadi has truly delivered a must-read for young adults and basically anyone was has felt lost and out of the zone. A heart-gripping, truly fascinating, and unforgivably gritty coming-of-age story awaits you. I cannot state enough that this book has captured my heart with its honest writing and amazing male lead. I can already imagine myself fangirling over his next book. 5_1.jpg

(Know more about my rating system here.)



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.

Connect with Arvin!

Website || Twitter || Instagram || Goodreads


Up for grabs! An ARC of Down and Across, and it’s open internationally!

Again, huge thanks to JM from Book Freak Revelations for giving me the chance to review this oh-so lovely book. Hugs and fist pumps to Penguin Random House for providing copies for the tour. You guys are the absolute best.

What contemporary novel inspired you to be gritty?


Sunday Street Team: Nice Try, Jane Sinner

Before Reading:

“Hey look. Reality show in diary format. Cool, okay. Let’s pick this one up!”

That was basically my first instinct. I did not even read the rest of the synopsis and read it as soon as possible. I don’t know. I mean, the cover is really pretty, and it kinda sums up the book in a lot of ways. I have been wanting to read a really good book written in a diary format so maybe, please let this be the one for me.

(Spoiler alert: YES. FINALLY.)


Title: Nice Try, Jane Sinner33413915

Author: Lianne Oelke

Genre: Contemporary

Date Published: 9th of January 2018

Series: None

Publisher: Clarion Books

Buy it on: Amazon-USBook Depository


The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out.

Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don’t know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she’ll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.

As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She’ll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.

After Reading:

Ah yay holy guacamole this book is awesome. Jane is awesome. House of Orange is awesome. Setting it in college is awesome. In short, Jane Sinner is AWESOME. What’s not to like about this book? Well, if I have to be honest, it will depend on you – the reader – whether you click with Jane or not. Know this though: she grows on you.


Now before you get into this book, I should tell you that if you are triggered by the topic of depression and suicide, please reconsider before reading.

Simply put, I loved this character-driven story because of so many reasons. The cool diary-like format, the witty banter and dialogue, the college setting, and the guilty pleasure of reading about reality shows. But the center of those reasons all come back to the main lead: Jane (freakin) Sinner.

Her character development was spot on, but right from the start, Jane Sinner has a way of getting into your head immediately. With her magnetic sarcastic voice, it was easy to resonate with her. She was a spunky lady who set her goals with the second chance she was given. You can easily tell that you like a certain book if you don’t tire from reading in a certain perspective. Jane’s voice developed along with the story, but it retained that tone of defiance accompanied with a fighting spirit. For me personally, Jane’s sarcasm spoke to me naturally. It’s that inner teenager voice that we all had once, at the time where we wanted to do certain things independently while carrying doubts behind our backs. Sometimes, it comes on too strong. But honestly, the truth punches are better than the half-punches. I guess it also helped that it was easy to grasp Jane because of the unique dialogue format of the book. It’s written like a script; it can take a while to get used to it, but the flow of the conversations are easier to follow. It’s quicker and I find it refreshing to read especially if the banter is at a fast pace.

What I also loved about this book are the parts where Jane questions her beliefs. Personally, it made me feel that I was not alone in sharing the same questions. Don’t get me wrong though, I still believe in the same faith that I was raised in, but sometimes I ask questions about the mold that they want to fit me in. For me, it was a part that made this book real for me. It also got me thinking, and it made me feel represented aside from her sarcasm and sometimes “don’t think, just act” moments.

The story was mildly chaotic, it being in a reality show setting. Interesting enough, the House of Orange is still tame compared to majority of the TV shows that I have heard of. It is like the premise of Big Brother, but with HOO being less creepy. The unique thing about it is that while they all live in the same roof, they still have the liberty to roam around. Through Jane’s eyes, I was able to learn to live and love the rest of the cast. I find Mark, Chantel, and Robbie magnetic and equally entertaining. With Alexander Park (the creator of HOO) in the mix, you can anticipate hilarious antics from each task that they have to do. Since it’s a lowkey reality show, be ready for what they have to do to win a particular task. Trust me, it’s pure gold.

Random piece of advice: Don’t let 2018 pass without you reading this book. For me, it’s special and it easily latched to me. I hope it will be the same for you, albeit you’ll probably have a different reading experience. Nice Try, Jane Sinner is not only entertaining, but it delivers a beautiful coming-of-age story of finding oneself through taking risks and doing things that float your boat. A must-read for anyone who has had anyone doubt their future and has doubted their own self-worth. Let’s all prove them wrong and stand up strong.


(Know more about my rating system here.)

Now, since I loved Jane Sinner too much, I decided to make a playlist of all the songs that I love and listened to gloriously these past few days. Some of the songs I imagine playing while they do something fun during an episode of House of Orange, while some of the songs I find perfect for the moment where Jane has her moments of soliloquy. Hope you enjoy listening!

Jane Sinner CD




Lianne Oelke holds a degree in philosophy and works in the film industry. She resides in Vancouver, and Nice Try, Jane Sinner is her first book.

Connect with Lianne!

Website | Twitter | Goodreads


Forever thanking the Sunday Street Team and HMH Teen for giving me the chance to review this book, making sure that my 2017 ended with a bang. The review is from my personal perspective and opinion, and it does not reflect that of the tour host.

Have you read Nice Try, Jane Sinner?

What are your favorite releases of 2018 so far?


Batman: Nightwalker || PH Blog Tour

Kudos to Bruce Wayne for making this post extra special. On January 2nd, readers are in for a special treat. The second book in the DC Icons series will be released to the world, and Batman will fill the headlines with Marie Lu. In retrospect, Batman: Nightwalker is a thrilling story about a young boy yearning to know what he wants to be in life. If you’re looking for an origin story, maybe this one’s not for you. But if you want some Bruce Wayne action, you’re in for a solid treat.

While I will not provide a full review for this book, I will be giving out extra contents for this leg of the tour.


Title: Batman: Nightwalker

Author: Marie Lu

Genre: Action, Fantasy

Date Published: 2nd of January 2018

Series: DC Icons #2

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers


Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy.

The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne is next on their list.

One by one, the city’s elites are being executed as their mansions’ security systems turn against them, trapping them like prey. Meanwhile, Bruce is turning eighteen and about to inherit his family’s fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Enterprises and all the tech gadgetry his heart could ever desire. But after a run-in with the police, he’s forced to do community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison that holds the city’s most brutal criminals.

Madeleine Wallace is a brilliant killer . . . and Bruce’s only hope.

In Arkham, Bruce meets Madeleine, a brilliant girl with ties to the Nightwalkers. What is she hiding? And why will she speak only to Bruce? Madeleine is the mystery Bruce must unravel. But is he getting her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees? Bruce will walk the dark line between trust and betrayal as the Nightwalkers circle closer.


Marie Lu delivers a poignant story with the audacity and the chivalry that will make readers fall in love with Bruce Wayne. In a perfectly imperfect way, the bat is etched as he cries out for justice. Glimpses of characters in the canon universe will serve as a delight to fans, while the additional characters will put a spin on this tale. Though dark as portrayed, Gotham City shines with the visual representation presented within the pages of Batman: Nightwalker. The readers shall never fear, for each page contains jam-packed action that will leave them hooked and unsettled, wanting for more.


Inspired by the canon and this DC Icon story, I have made bookmarks featuring quotes that will give readers a hint of what is in store for them whilst reading. I was feeling a little extra, so decided to name the bookmarks with the places significant to the story. These bookmarks are for personal use only.

– Arkham Asylum

– Gotham City

– Wayne Manor

Download [here]

Huge thanks to JM at Book Freak Revelations for letting me join the tour  and PRH International for providing copies in support of the tour.

Are you excited to read Batman: Nightwalker?