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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Books I Want to Feature on my Blog (First Half of 2019)

(aka Bianca needs to pick from her 2019 reads so it can actually be a realistic goal)

2019 is slating to become a big year for me. I can already feel it in my bones that it will definitely be one heck of a year. The same sentiment can be said for all of the amazing and various books slated to come out this year. For some reason, it seems like the bookish gods agreed to drop releases that are sure to make me all fired up. Alas, I am but a fangirl with limits. I am aware that I am not the fastest reader out there. So I want to be a girl with a plan; if I specifically put my energy on these books then I will be able to promote them efficiently and effectively. After all, they are the crème de la crème out of all the to-be released books on the first half of my 2019 radar. There is this eerie feeling in my bones that draws me to these books. To be quite honest, some of them seem to already scream “Pick me! Pick me! You know you’ll love me.” I mean, how can I say no to that?

This is a realistic version of myself speaking. Also since we are going at it: yes, the covers made an impact on the decision making process. I can’t resist a good cover, okay? Yes, I included links because I’m extra like that. Yes, this is listed by release date. AND YES, I am aware that this list consists of Asian releases because I am officially joining the Year of the Asian reading challenge hosted by Shealea at Shut Up, Shealea, CW at The Quiet Pond, Vicky at Vicky Who Reads, and Lily at Sprinkles of Dreams. It is a year-long reading challenge where to goal is to read as many books as you can written by Asian authors. Sounds fun, right? (If you want to know more about the reading challenge, the blogs are linked to the host’s official sign-ups and more can be found on their official Twitter.) I’m actually aiming for the lowest badge for this challenge, which is the Philippine Tarsier, equivalent of reading 1 – 10 books. I mean, it’s a great place to start. Quite honestly, earning this tarsier already warms my heart.

I feel so accomplished.

I am also hyper aware that it is already March. It is still just the first quarter so who is keeping tabs? *nervous laughs* With that in mind, here are the top ten books that I would love to read and feature on my blog for the first half of 2019.

The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf

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Release Date: February 5, 2019

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A music-loving teen with OCD does everything she can to find her way back to her mother during the historic race riots in 1969 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this heart-pounding literary debut.

Melati Ahmad looks like your typical moviegoing, Beatles-obsessed sixteen-year-old. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds though, Mel also believes that she harbors a djinn inside her, one who threatens her with horrific images of her mother’s death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied.

But there are things that Melati can’t protect her mother from. On the evening of May 13th, 1969, racial tensions in her home city of Kuala Lumpur boil over. The Chinese and Malays are at war, and Mel and her mother become separated by a city in flames. 

With a 24-hour curfew in place and all lines of communication down, it will take the help of a Chinese boy named Vincent and all of the courage and grit in Melati’s arsenal to overcome the violence on the streets, her own prejudices, and her djinn’s surging power to make it back to the one person she can’t risk losing.

Buy on: Amazon || The Book Depository

Why I want to feature it: A Southeast Asian historical fiction? YES PLEASE. I am genuinely sad that this book almost slipped my radar in 2018. Luckily, even readers who do not usually go for historical fiction were raving about this book endlessly. I believe that it is a very important with all of the topics that it has under its belt, and I am drawn to books like that. It has all the elements that I want in a book, and even with the content warnings, I want to wholeheartedly embrace it. Now that it is officially released, I’m hoping to get myself a copy. In the hopes of staying optimistic, this better be released in our local bookstores soon.

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

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Release Date: April 2, 2019

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Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant and alluring investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

In this shimmering Chinese-inspired fantasy, debut author Joan He introduces a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggling to do right in a world brimming with deception.

Pre-order on: Amazon || The Book Depository

Why I want to feature it: Full disclosure, it was the cover and the title that hooked me in. When I saw it, I was on that high from Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix and Empress of All Seasons. I’m still craving for good fantasy stories, so I’m really stoked to read about Joan He’s take on a tale ala Game of Thrones. Granted, I am not really into that kind of high level fantasy, but I am always open to reading out of my comfort zone to what seems to be such a promising read.

Side note and progress tracker: This is the first book that I have successfully requested from Edelweiss. I swear, the bookish gods are onto something. I’m also a few pages in and it has definitely made my morning commute far more interesting.

Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo

36992163Release Date: May 7, 2019

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10 00 p.m.: Lucky is the biggest K-pop star on the scene, and she’s just performed her hit song “Heartbeat” in Hong Kong to thousands of adoring fans. She’s about to debut on The Tonight Show in America, hopefully a breakout performance for her career. But right now? She’s in her fancy hotel, trying to fall asleep but dying for a hamburger.

11 00 p.m.: Jack is sneaking into a fancy hotel, on assignment for his tabloid job that he keeps secret from his parents. On his way out of the hotel, he runs into a girl wearing slippers, a girl who is single-mindedly determined to find a hamburger. She looks kind of familiar. She’s very cute. He’s maybe curious.

12:00 a.m.: Nothing will ever be the same.

Pre-order on: Amazon || The Book Depository

Why I want to feature it: I simply adored Maurene Goo’s The Way You Make Me Feel in 2018. There is a certain appeal to her writing style and character dynamics that hook me in, and those aspects are what I’m anticipating to read. Maybe this is the closet K-drama admirer in me, but these types of stories always manage to hook me in a heartbeat. (Also, I know the main guy Jack is cropped on the cover. But believe me when I say that girls will go head-over-heels for him and they will demand an uncropped version. Call me out, but I’m betting a dollar on it.)

The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad

39821312Release Date: May 14, 2019

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Fatima lives in the city of Noor, a thriving stop along the Silk Road. There the music of myriad languages fills the air, and people of all faiths weave their lives together. However, the city bears scars of its recent past, when the chaotic tribe of Shayateen djinn slaughtered its entire population — except for Fatima and two other humans. Now ruled by a new maharajah, Noor is protected from the Shayateen by the Ifrit, djinn of order and reason, and by their commander, Zulfikar.

But when one of the most potent of the Ifrit dies, Fatima is changed in ways she cannot fathom, ways that scare even those who love her. Oud in hand, Fatima is drawn into the intrigues of the maharajah and his sister, the affairs of Zulfikar and the djinn, and the dangers of a magical battlefield.

Nafiza Azad weaves an immersive tale of magic and the importance of names; fiercely independent women; and, perhaps most importantly, the work for harmony within a city of a thousand cultures and cadences.

Pre-order on: Amazon || The Book Depository

Why I want to feature it: Again, despite the fantasy setting, I am down to read anything that has a historical ring to it. Color me a hopeless romantic, but these kinds of novels are worth screaming about every single time. The promise of an immersive tale? I’m simply sold. (Can we also talk about that cover and how I badly want to make it move?? I’m crying and I am dying. It would look so badass!)

Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi

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Release Date: May 21, 2019

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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?

Pre-order on: Amazon || The Book Depository

Why I want to feature it: I fell into a wonderful wonderland after reading Arvin’s debut novel Down and Across. It was love at first read, and the lingering thought of Scott Ferdowsi’s journey to DC to find his grit still makes me smile. It cemented the fact that I will probably read anything from Arvin, even his grocery list. Kidding aside, as a former student of technology, I would not want to pass up on a YA offering that deals with virtual and augmented reality. This is my jam. All this talk about an inevitable distant future is thrilling and exciting, and I’m here for it. If I missed out on Opal’s story… well, I wouldn’t dream of doing so.

Side note and progress tracker: It looks like I can count this as my first official read upon joining the challenge! GUYS, I kid you not this book delivered and my mind is juggling to find words. HOW IS MAY STILL SO FAR? I’M DYING TO DISCUSS.

Stronger Than A Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan

41150325Release Date: June 11, 2019

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When a powerful viceroy arrives with a fleet of mechanical dragons and stops an attack on Anlei’s village, the villagers see him as a godsend. They agree to give him their sacred, enchanted River Pearl in exchange for permanent protection—if he’ll marry one of the village girls to solidify the alliance. Anlei is appalled when the viceroy selects her as a bride, but with the fate of her people at stake, she sees no choice but to consent. Anlei’s noble plans are sent into a tailspin, however, when a young thief steals the River Pearl for himself.

Knowing the viceroy won’t protect her village without the jewel, she takes matters into her own hands. But once she catches the thief, she discovers he needs the pearl just as much as she does. The two embark on an epic quest across the land and into the Courts of Hell, taking Anlei on a journey that reveals more is at stake than she could have ever imagined.

With incredibly vivid world building and fast-paced storytelling, Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon is great for readers who are looking for something fresh in epic fantasy.

Pre-order on: Amazon || The Book Depository

Why I want to feature it: Something fresh in an epic fantasy? Alright, I’m sold! It’s easy as 1, 2, 3 to get me on board with this story. What’s not to love about mechanical dragons and yet another historical setting? What I am saying basically is that, “I am trash. This story makes my eyes light up. Please, I just want to read all the Asian lit this 2019.”

Side note and progress tracker: I got approved to join the international blog tour for this book! Call me a lucky shittake mushroom, but heck! I’m so happy to be able to be given the opportunity to feature it!

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

41941681Release Date: June 18, 2019

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A powerful coming-of-age story about grief, guilt, and the risks a Filipino-American teenager takes to uncover the truth about his cousin’s murder.

Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte’s war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story.

Hoping to uncover more about Jun and the events that led to his death, Jay is forced to reckon with the many sides of his cousin before he can face the whole horrible truth — and the part he played in it.

As gripping as it is lyrical, Patron Saints of Nothing is a page-turning portrayal of the struggle to reconcile faith, family, and immigrant identity.

Pre-order on: Amazon || The Book Depository

Why I want to feature it: For one, I want to support Randy Ribay and I want this book to be so gosh-darn successful. Second, it takes guts to even publish something like this because it is not everyday that we get a book like this. There was once a time in our country that a book like this could have led to serious consequences. And lastly, honestly I wish that the synopsis of this book is only half-true – but it’s not. A war on drugs is happening in my country. The mere mention of extrajudicial killings is already a heavy topic in on itself and it is a severe issue that needs to be addressed. For a book to tackle the subject is something we need to read right now, even if stories similar to the death Jay’s cousin Jun is all over the news. You see how important this book is, right?

Side note and progress tracker: We are all in. The flames are hot and animated. The reading will commence soon! We are ready to roll.

Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

Wicked Fox by Penguin Young ReadersRelease Date: June 25, 2019

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A fresh and addictive fantasy-romance set in modern-day Seoul.

No one in modern-day Seoul believes in the old fables anymore, which makes it the perfect place for Gu Miyoung and her mother to hide in plain sight. Miyoung is a Gumiho, a nine-tailed fox, who must eat the souls of men to survive. She feeds every full moon—eating the souls of men who have committed crimes, but have evaded justice. Her life is upended when she kills a dokkaebi, a murderous goblin, in the forest just to save the life of a human boy. But after Miyoung saves Jihoon’s life, the two develop a tenuous friendship that blooms into romance forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon’s.

Pre-order on: Amazon || The Book Depository

Why I want to feature it: It has been so long since I watched and adored Korean dramas. Specifically, it is My Girlfriend is A Gumiho, which I absolutely fell in love with. With this particular novel coming, I believe it’s time to rekindle that specific spark I had with the magnificent being. The elements are there: a gumiho, a young boy, and a friendship that promises to blossom into a romance. There is just so much excitement in the air and I cannot wait to love this book wholeheartedly.

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

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Release Date: July 30, 2019

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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.

Pre-order on: Amazon || The Book Depository

Why I want to feature it: The minute I saw Mulan paired with that gorgeous cover, there was no question. This book will be the cause of many emotions to spur. I mean come on, how cool is this? How can I not pick it up? I’m already speechless with how it has presented itself. The MC herself looks so badass and downright ready to blow everyone in court away.

*melts into a puddle because what are words*

My Fate According to the Butterfly by Gail D. Villanueva

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Release Date: July 30, 2019

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Superstitious soon-to-be 11-year-old Sab believes her fate is sealed when she spots an ominous black butterfly. Determined to reconcile her journalist older sister and their father before her time is up, Sab embarks on a quest that sends her on a collision course with the realities of Manila and the war on drugs.

Pre-order on: Amazon || The Book Depository

Why I want to feature it: Since reading Everlasting Nora last year, I feel pretty confident that seeing Filipino characters in the novel makes me feel more at ease to read middle grade novels. Growing up, I wanted these books for myself. Now with this book dawning upon us, the happy kid inside me is bursting with joy. Not only does it feature a Filipino girl on the cover, but it also tackles important issues etched in the country and the particular city that I live in. I will never tire of supporting novels made with heart.

Okay now I feel like I should add more but I really need to be realistic. Ten is actually still a stretch – not unless some sort of speed-reading deity entered my body. The possibilities aside, I can only hope to read and support the wonderful and awesome books on this list. We already share a certain connection, and I really would love to read all of these lovely books. I know we’re still early on into 2019, so anything can happen.

(I should really work on a master post or something. There’s too many releases and I should try to be an organized adult.)

How about you guys? What books do you want to feature on your blog for 2019?

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Fangirl Issues: When You Really Are a Book Cover Judger

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Guilty Pleasure GIF-source

Oops. Someone’s guilty. No, not you. Maybe, if you didn’t agree and you suddenly got all defensive. Although, let’s back up a bit. Yes, there is no doubt that I too pledge guilty. But is this saying still relevant nowadays? Why can’t I judge a book by its cover? Is it still wrong for me to do so? These are some of the lingering questions that a bookworm like me has everyday. I don’t know if you noticed this or not, but oftentimes the books I review for the blog are blind picks. Before I read a book, usually I just skim the synopsis and go “Eh. What’s the harm right?” Most of the time, it’s proven effective because my expectations are low and it helps me to review the book efficiently and unbiased. The other deciding factor of reading a book: literally judging the cover.

Nowadays, I truly believe that you can judge a book by its cover. I believe that part of why we read a book is because we are drawn to the way it is designed and presented. The cover got your attention and it made you want to pick it up. There is no denying that it is now part of the overall reading experience. Probably only 10 – 20% of the time, but it still affects you. Aside from the blurb or the keywords that got your attention, the cover serves as the first impression. Whatever it is that you think about next is impartially affected by the cover itself.

On another note, and this is probably just the graphic designer in me but it’s part of the judgement. Is the typography on point? Does the color combination make sense? Are the illustrations lit af? Does it make we want to read it or does it make my brain say “meh”? Will I let out an exasperated gasp because of the amazing effects that they used? Is this worth it? They said ‘magic VR’ on the cover so I should like this right?

Another thing is that book covers can be distinguished just by looking at the overall ambience that it projects. For example, you can easily recognize a YA contemporary by looking at some key elements like the bright color and the brush / calligraphy / handwritten font used for the title. Let’s face it, if you’re a contemporary lover like me, you are sure to pick these up once you see it on your local bookstore or even online.

Exhibit A:

Another trend in YA contemporary books are the sans serif fonts (the long and movie poster-like fonts), that gives it an edgy feel. The font itself makes the book look like an amazing movie poster. Add in the summery feels, and voila! Here lies an amazing read under the sizzling sun.

Exhibit B:

What about fantasies? Well, forgive me for saying this, but you’ll know the book probably deals with magic if you see the fancy serif fonts and if the book is entirely in the darker spectrum. Sometimes it can be white, but there is always that dose of black. Usually, I avoid fantasies like the plague, but sometimes there comes a moment where you don’t choose the book. The book chooses you.

Exhibit C:

Have you also noticed these details before? Then congratulations! Welcome to the club. So now, what if you really are a book cover judger? Here’s something that we can do about that.

1. OWN IT. Own that title. You judge a book by its cover and that’s okay. But if you’re owning it, make sure that you know enough about a book before you join in on a general discussion. Maybe at least read the blurb or be aware of the genre. But when it comes to discussing book covers, GO FOR IT. BE THE FABULOUS UNICORN THAT YOU ARE. Be proud and let it be known that you know the color scheme for every Morgan Matson or Rainbow Rowell book!

JLv5k

2. Help your friends decide which book to buy. An hour has already passed and you have already picked a book of your own. But your friend/s are still having dilemmas on picking a book that will fit their budget. Now you get to be the tiebreaker. Help them choose which one to buy based on how they chose to manifest the elements of the book on the cover! (Plus convincing them to buy it because of the pretty cover and knowing they like the premise is like getting extra book brownie points.)

such a good friend

3. Spread the cover love! Books, like us amazing human beings, are unique in every way. Sometimes the stories contained within their pages may be on the same beat, but there is so much work that is put into one novel. So besides supporting the lovely authors, give a shout out to the amazing people behind the book cover as well! You love the story, but book cover artists made you fall in love with it at first sight. They are the real heroes for conveying magnetic layouts and designs that beautifully match the amazing words underneath the hardcovers.

yaaaas

All I’m saying is that it’s not wrong to judge a book by the cover. You CAN judge the book when you have read it from front to back. You can also judge it by its cover, but that judgement will only remain impartial until you read the whole thing. The cover may be beautiful, but it can also deceive if you base your judgement on it alone. But as for picking a book based on its cover, YOU DO YOU.

But hey, that’s my two cents on a subject that I am truly passionate about. What’s your take on this?

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Sunday Street Team: Girl In Pieces (Interview + Giveaway)

Have you ever read a synopsis of a book and thought: “Oh my, this sounds like an amazing book.”? Yet at the same time, you get hesitant on thinking about reading the book? Kathleen Glasgow’s Girl in Pieces discusses such a hard-hitting topic. It is hauntingly spectacular to begin with, and a much needed read for everyone. Not every book out there tackles self-harm as this beautiful piece of literature.

When the opportunity of interviewing Kathleen opened itself in the form of the Sunday Street Team, I took it. It was the curiosity in me that triggered the sensation. Luckily, I was fortunate enough.

book_

24879132Title: Girl In Pieces

Author: Kathleen Glasgow

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mental Health, Mental Illness

Date Published: 30th of August 2016

Series: None

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Rating: 4.5/5 stars on Goodreads

Buy it on: Amazon / TBD

Summary:

Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The thick glass of a mason jar cuts deep, and the pain washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.

Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.

An Interview with Kathleen Glasgow

Was it hard to write about a sensitive topic such as self-harm?

It was, in the sense that I tried very hard to give an honest voice to a very difficult topic. I felt like readers needed to know what it’s like, what happens, how lonely it is.

In the process of writing the book, did you experience a moment of writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it?

I didn’t experience writer’s block so much as “writer’s dilemma,” which is a little thing also known as “life,” and which tends to get in the way of writing time. So I really had to carve out time to write, which took eight years. Because, um, I had two kids along the way and they kind of demand attention? The nerve, am I right?

Is Charlotte a real person in your life?

No, but I wish she was, because I think she’s beautiful, brave, crazy, awesome, and fearless. I’d also like her to teach me to draw, because she’s really good at it.

If given the chance, would you have changed the ending that took place in the book?

No, I wouldn’t change the ending. I considered one other ending, but this one seemed to fit. Some things are left open to interpretation, but some things are also wrapped up neatly. And (spoiler) I give Charlie the ending she worked so hard for, because she deserves it.

Do you have a favorite scene in the book where everything just seems to fall into place? 

Well, I don’t know if I can say everything falls into place anywhere in the book, because the book is about life, and people, and being in pieces, so things are crazily jumbled and out of whack. But I can say that I love the last half of the third section of the book, when Charlie has found her voice and is coming into her own as an artist and as a person.

What would you say to other Charlies out there, struggling with their daily lives carrying physical and mental scars?

First, I would say hello and then I would say, You are not alone. We are out here, we struggle every day with darkness, and there are more of us than you think, and we are beautiful and strong and creative and positively angelic. Then I’d ask if they want to get some coffee, because that’s my favorite drink. And because sometimes the smallest conversation can help in the biggest of ways. And I would give them information about places to call for help.

What are the three possible things that you can say can pull people out of a dark time? (Like the in the song ‘My Favorite Things’)  

“I’m listening.”  “You can tell me anything and I will not judge.”  “You can tell me anything and I will still love you.”

If you or someone you know is struggling and needs help, please consider contacting:

Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

To Write Love on Her Arms: https://twloha.com/find-help/local-resources/

National Runaway Hotline: 1-800-621-4000

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Image via Kathleen’s site

Kathleen Glasgow lives in Tucson, Arizona. She writes for the radio show The Writer’s Almanac and can probably provide you with some interesting anecdotes about historical literary figures if you asked nicely. You can find out more about Kathleen by following her on Twitter: @kathglasgow, Instagram: @misskathleenglasgow (where she posts about sunsets, depression, spirit circles, and books) or her website: kathleenglasgowbooks.com.

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(Click for the giveaway.)

Want to know more about the Sunday Street Team? Click the lovely blog button and be directed to pure awesomeness.

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Have you read Girl in Pieces yet? Any thoughts? What other books about self-harm have you read? I need recommendations.

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I Got Tagged: The Mid-Year Freak Out Tag(2016)

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‘Tis the end of July and I have read only 20+ books. Right on track (no, not really) with my Goodreads schedule. I have no idea how I managed to do it despite the ridiculous time frame given to me this 2016, but I did it. Hence, it is only proper that I do this wonderful tag this year. I thought that 2016 will be a bad reading year for me. It turns out that I was perpetually wrong.

I was tagged by Raven at Dreamy Addictions, but I was not worthy enough last year. Haha. Luckily, I was tagged this year by B at icebreaker694 to do this tag again this year. Thank you guys!

Onto the tag!

Best book you’ve read so far in 2016

No, you cannot make me choose between these four books. You may not. The Darkest Corners is like the best YA thriller there is. Simon VS. The Homo Sapien’s Agenda is the best fluffy YA contemporary. More Happy Than Not is the best YA contemporary angst. And Holding Up the Universe is the best YA contemporary romance.

Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2016

I have not read any sequels yet. Don’t throw books at me. I’m still at a point where I am only reading the first books in a series.

New release you haven’t read yet, but want to

I definitely want to read My Lady Jane, Learning to Swear in America and Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies. My Lady Jane for historical fiction reasons, plus I am Tudor Era trash haha. Here’s to more historical YA fiction! And well, I want to read more books that feature male leads. Those two books are the newest addition to my male leads list.

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

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It has been said before, and I will say it again: GEMINA. GEMINA. GEMINA. I don’t mind actually. Just as long as I get my hands on it as soon as humanly possible once it is released. Or else I will probably turn wild and I will have to harvest human flesh for food. Kidding. 😉

Biggest disappointment

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Have you ever wanted a book so bad that once you get it in your hands, you start reading it? And then it fails to live up to your expectations? It was one of the books that I wanted to read since I started blogging. Unfortunately, it did fail my expectations.

Biggest surprise

It would definitely have to be Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

  • I had low expectations for Cinder, despite hearing from everyone that they love it to bits. Hands down to Marissa Meyer, because sci-fi is practically my new cup of hot chocolate. I need more of the Lunar Chronicles in my life.
  • Now the Grisha trilogy actually did not sit well with me, and I did not even tried to pick up Ruin and Rising. Now before you go all Grisha on me, I did bring the topic up of reading Six of Crows for the Fanboy Book Club. It means that despite my cold experience with her other series, I still love Leigh Bardugo and her Russian-inspired world. And it was the best decision ever. All I needed was a group of misfits and I was sold. I will be reviewing Six of Crows soon so I hope you stay tuned for that.
  • I STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT TO FEEL ABOUT WE WERE LIARS.

Favorite new author (debut or new to you)

I would say that I have too many to mention that it deserves a list of it’s own!

Newest fictional crush

I’m saving that list for another day as well.  😉

Here’s a sneak peek though:

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Image via p-i-quote-book.blogspot.com

Newest favorite character

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I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to read Holding Up The Universe before it comes out, and I was fortunate enough to read about Libby. I have this thing where I cannot connect with female characters. But I have never felt a strong connection with any character than I did with Libby Strout. She is the brightest character and there, hence I wanted to scream, “Finally! I am represented in a YA novel.”

Book/s that made you cry

I probably cried the hardest during More Happy Than Not. But all of these are equally beautiful in their own way. Aristotle and Dante was just beautiful. End of question. As for Holding Up The Universe, I still have a review on the way so I hope you stay tuned for that.

Book that made you happy

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Becky Albertalli’s book is so darn fluffy! It’s like eating oreos dipped in cookies and cream milk, alongside cookies and cream ice cream. It is that sweet because of each and every character, but mostly Simon and Blue. Read it if you have not yet!

Favorite book to film adaptation you saw this year

Does Deadpool count? I mean, it’s a comic BOOK. Plus it is so badass. Other than that, I finally saw the Angels and Demons film because of a lovely friend.

Favorite review you’ve written this year

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I loved writing my review for Cities by Carla de Guzman. It was so good, and I loved weighing the words that gave it balance. Read the full version here!

Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

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Say hello to my Bookworms Unite 2.0 book haul! These books are oh so beautiful and oh so diverse! Nothing can beat the amazing feeling that only the Filipino book blogging community can give.

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

I have a list. And it’s a ridiculous list. I don’t even have the courage that I will pull it off. Please don’t ask for my head.


How are you guys doing what do you plan on doing for the rest of the year? The opportunities are endless! Have you guys done this tag? Consider yourself tagged if not! Share your mid year freak out with me. 🙂

Side note: Would you believe that it took me month to do this? Hahaha. 

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Book Review: Zac and Mia

This book will not follow my usual review format because this one is a special case.

Have you ever wanted to read a book so badly… and be devastatingly disappointed? Well, it just happened to me. And I am one sad fangirl.

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20256715Title: Zac and Mia

Author: A. J. Betts

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Realistic Fiction

Date Published: 24th of July 2013

Series: None

Publisher: Text Publishing

Source: Paperback, bought from Fully Booked

Summary:

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this tough and tender young adult novel that’s a lot about love (and a little about cancer).

“When I was little I believed in Jesus and Santa, spontaneous combustion, and the Loch Ness monster. Now I believe in science, statistics, and antibiotics.” So says seventeen-year-old Zac Meier during a long, grueling leukemia treatment in Perth, Australia. A loud blast of Lady Gaga alerts him to the presence of Mia, the angry, not-at-all-stoic cancer patient in the room next door. Once released, the two near-strangers can’t forget each other, even as they desperately try to resume normal lives. The story of their mysterious connection drives this unflinchingly tough, tender novel told in two voices.

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There was something off. Flying through the book felt like a breeze, but it was a hot steam kind of breeze. The book has the fair share of pros and cons, which I will gladly lay down.

Pros: It discussed a heavy topic in a lighter mood. Hard-hitting illnesses such as cancer is messy to deal with, if not done properly. Yet this book managed to deliver it in a manner where it’s targeted audience could understand it, and it still leaves room for further research. The writing was made for young adults to learn something, and it is commendable that the author has shed more light unto such topic.

Cons: There is too much angst. This comes in the form of Mia, one of the main characters. Depending on the reader, her attitude will probably be on a hit or miss basis. There was so much hate that I could not stand while reading. It pains me to say that the anger is normal, but it can be frustrating.

Pros: The family that sticks together. This comes in the form of Zac’s family (and Mia’s, in the latter part). His family is downright supportive, especially his mom and his sister. The story has other characters who talk about the realities of the world, and it built up this “Everything is okay.” environment.

Cons: The unnecessary romance. It can be said that Zac and Mia are polar opposites, but the story could have centered more on a friendship aspect. I admit that I smiled when they had a cheesy moment. Yet it feels like something was off. One minute, it was bursting rage. Then in the next one, they say uplifting things sounds cute. But then you cut to Mia, who will suddenly burst your bubble. Zac is too nice, and he is a devoted friend. Mia on the other hand, is just angry.

Pros: The uplifting POV. This comes in the form of Zac. You get that he is having a bad time, as he weighs the chances. He is a character that will uplift and question at the same time, similar to that of Craig from It’s Kind of A Funny Story. The book started in his perspective, and I thought that it was going pretty well until;

Cons: The “I hate everything” POV. This comes in the form of Mia. Despite the message that Mia needs to learn how to love herself, it was painful to read rage. It went downhill from there.

Zac and Mia is a beautiful book full of aspiring thoughts, a cast of characters that find themselves, and a beautiful setting. I am probably at fault for raising my bar too high because despite the beauty of the prose, it felt flat for me. It was an easy read, and it is digestible for such a heavy topic. But if I had to drag myself to finish it then sadly, this book is not for me.

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(Know more about my rating system here.)

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AJ

AJ Betts is an Australian author, speaker, teacher and cyclist. ZAC & MIA, her third novel for teenagers, won the 2012 Text Prize, the 2014 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award, and the 2014 Ethel Turner prize for young adults at the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards. Inspired by her work in a children’s hospital, ZAC & MIA is available in 14 countries. AJ’s other novels are WAVELENGTH and SHUTTERSPEED (both with Fremantle Press). She’s lived in Perth since 2004.

Connect with A.J. on her:

Facebook || Twitter || Official Website

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