Sunday, May 27, 2018

Review: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: June 26, 2018
Rating: 5 stars
Source: Review copy sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

Star-crossed lovers, meddling immortals, feigned identities, battles of wits, and dire warnings: these are the stuff of fairy tale, myth, and folklore that have drawn us in for centuries. 

Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate.

Compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, the authors included in this exquisite collection are: Renée Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, and Alyssa Wong.

A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place.

From fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge, these stories will beguile readers from start to finish. For fans of Neil Gaiman’s Unnatural Creatures and Ameriie’s New York Times–bestselling Because You Love to Hate Me.

What I Liked:

It's the final days of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and I'm sneaking in this review just in time! This anthology has to be one of my favorites of all time. I've read several anthologies over the years, and I think this one is quite possibly one of the best that YA authors have to offer. I was introduced to many new Asian myths and legends, but also recognized some of the South Asian ones. I'm incredibly proud to see an anthology of Asian stories, written by Asian authors. This is the #ownvoices representation that YA - and lit in general - needs. 

I read the stories but I'm only going to highlight a few, which were my favorite. You won't need much convincing, trust me. All of these authors are true storytellers, with excellent writing. You'll recognize powerhouse names like Renée Ahdieh and Roshani Chokshi, and you'll see some "new" names, like Alyssa Wong and Preeti Chhibber. Regardless, these authors all have fantastic stories to tell. This anthology contains retellings of Asian myths and legends. It is structured such that the retelling is presented, and then in the page after the story's end, the author gives a little background information about the original legend(s). This was really cool, because I didn't know about most of the legends, and reading the retellings made me want to know more. 

Below are some of my favorites. Please note that all of these stories are worth reading. I just really want to gush about these in particular. If I discussed all of them, this would be a very long and boring review (if it isn't already!). 

Forbidden Fruit by Roshani Chokshi (Filipino)

This story is a loose retelling of the story of a Filipino goddess, Maria Makiling, who is associated with Mount Makiling. In this retelling, the Mountain falls in love with a human male, and loses her heart to him. It ends up being a tragic story, and in quite a heartbreaking way. I found the retelling absolutely fascinating, and the legend itself was quite intriguing as well. Roshani Chokshi has a way of weaving a story together. There was a quiet lull to this story, and then things escalated in the final pages. Amazing story, lush writing, fascinating legend. 

Still Star-Crossed by Sona Charaipotra (Punjabi)

This story is based on the tale of Sahiba and Mirza, two star-crossed lovers. If there is one thing I know about Indian lore in general, it is the fascination with star-crossed lovers. You see it in old-school Bollywood movies all the time! (I say "old-school" and refer to basically anything pre-2010). The legend involves Sahiba who falls in love with Mirza, a famed archer, but she is to marry a stranger. On the night of her arranged wedding, she runs off with Mirza. But the tale doesn't end there, and I won't spoil it. The retelling is set in modern times, with Taara at a dance in the beginning of the story. Taara meets a boy who calls her Soni and claims to know her, but she has never seen him before. Still, something tugs her to him. This story ends like I expected - the twist is somewhat predictable especially if you're familiar with the culture or old tales. But I loved this story. There was something so familiar about it to me - both the original legend, and the retelling. 

The Smile by Aisha Saeed (South Asian)

It isn't specified, but I believe the original tale is Pakistani. The legend is the story of Anarkali, a courtesan for King Akbar of the Mughal Empire in the 1500s. The retelling is a little different from the original story - in that it binds together two potential versions of the original story. (The original legend is very old and there are several interpretations to the story.) This in itself was really cool. But in any case, I loved the retelling. The heroine is a courtesan to a prince, and the prince is so in love with her. But the courtesan knows that while she adores the prince, she does not love him, and her life is completely controlled by him, even if she is not a prisoner. One smile of hers breaks the illusion and she realizes just how little control of her life that she actually has. The ending of this story is actually really "happy" and I loved it. I was completely hooked on this story and I was rooting for one thing, but then I realized that I wanted the story to end differently. And it did. This was such a cool story and I love that the author chose to retell such an old one, and made it her own.

Nothing Into All by Renée Ahdieh (Korean)

This retelling was so cool. I feel like I've said that several times now, in this review. But it was! The retelling is the story of Charan and her young brother Chun. Charan and Chun visit the forest often, because they've seen goblins. They'd been doing this since they were children. They got older, and Charan is getting ready to leave her family to go to music school, even though she has caught the eye of a young man in the village, and the match would be advantageous for the family. Chun is not happy about this, because he thinks his sister is being selfish by not staying the village and going through with the match. One day, Charan falls through a hole and meets the goblins. They give her an enchanted club and two wishes. Chun, in a fit of jealousy, steals the club and goes to meet the goblins. All he wants is what is best for his family, unlike what he thinks his sister wants. But things do not end the way Chun wants them to. You'll have to read the story to see what happened. The original legend (a Korean fairy tale) is called The Goblin Treasure and it involved two brothers, one with a good soul and one with a disquiet soul. Anything with goblins is awesome to me, but Renée Ahdieh's retelling of the legend is especially riveting.

Daughter of the Sun by Shveta Thakrar (South Asian)

This story had me going through a roller coaster of emotions. It is based on The Mahabharata, which is the longest epic poem in recorded history. One of the tales is that of Princess Savitri and Prince Satyavan, and this is where the author's retelling comes from. The retelling is slightly different from the original story. In the retelling Savitri saves Satyavan, a cursed so of Chandra, the lunar lord. But even though she saved him from death, Satyavan is on borrowed time. Still, Savitri brings him back and they get to know each other. But Satyavan remembers nothing of his near-death, or even his being a son of the lunar lord. He knows nothing but Savitri. What happens when his borrowed time is up? You'll have to read the story to find out. This was a heartbreaking and also very lovely story. And surprisingly, the ending was very positive. I love the themes that the author wove into the story. I also loved the romance. With short stories, oftentimes the romance is tragic or nonexistent. The romance in this story was lovely. 


Those were my favorite stories, but please, read the anthology in its entirety!

What I Did Not Like:

Nothing to say here!

Would I Recommend It:

I highly recommend this anthology, whether you read YA or not, whether you're Asian or not. Many of these tales read like fiction (not specifically YA fiction), so I'd encourage adult fiction readers to check out the book. There is a wide range of Asian representation - Punjabi, Filipino, Chinese, Hmong, Korean, Gujarati, Vietnamese, and more. My heart was so full, to see these authors and these cultures represented. But my heart was even more full when I read these stories and was swept away by the amazing tales and lovely storytelling. These authors wrote some quality stories. Don't just read this book because it's an Asian-written anthology of Asian stories (although, that's an excellent reason to read the anthology, don't get me wrong); read the book because the stories are incredible.


5 stars. My hat goes off to Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman for putting together this project. And of course to the amazing authors who came up with these stories. A specific thing: I didn't grow up seeing many South Asian MG or YA stories in the library, and to see so many in this anthology was heartwarming. Thank you, authors.

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Stacking the Shelves (#283)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, in which bloggers share the books and swag they've received in the past week!

So, what did I get in the week of Sunday, May 20th to Saturday, May 26th?

(all links to Goodreads are provided!)

In the mail:

Book nerd t-shirt from Entangled Teen

Thank you, Entangled! I got another package from Entangled but forgot to take pictures. Honestly, this publishing house has been slaying!

Both are unsolicited and new to me! Thank you, Tor and PRH. =)

From NetGalley:

I liked Zero Hour and I'm looking forward to reading this new one!

Review from this week:

(Click on the cover to go to my review!)

Favorite Instagram post from this week:

None this week! (I know, it's getting out of control. Why do I have an Instagram account again?!)

This week was a really good week for me! Most of the time I feel pretty ambivalent about the week, but I can safely say this was a great week. I made some decisions that I feel good about. And it's a long weekend here in the States, so that's something I'm looking forward to. Happy weekend, everyone!

Friday, May 25, 2018

My Favorite YA Summer Reads/Rereads

Happy Friday, bibliovores! Today is another day in which I didn't feel like writing/posting a review, but did feel like posting something... so I'm doing another favorites post! You can check out my favorite books that were recommended to me HERE, my favorite YA books with "blood" in the title HERE, favorite YA books that need a sequel HERE, favorite YA books with hate-to-love romance HERE, favorite books with the word "shadow" in the title HERE, favorite adult books (alphabet style) HERE, favorite Jane-Austen-Inspired YA books HERE, favorite YA foreign editions posts HERE, favorite YA books (alphabet style) HERE, favorite YA books with one-word titles HERE, favorite swoons from YA books HERE.

Here are some of my favorite YA summer reads/rereads! 

    My Life Next Door

I loved all of these! Most of them have a lighter tone to them (hence being on my "summer" read/reread list), and they're all standalone novels! With the exception of To All the Boys I've Loved Before. Standalones make great summer reads!

Do you have any summer-y recommendations for me? Regardless of if the book has anything to do with "summer" itself - recommend any summer-esque reading to me!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Swoon Thursday (#278): Going Rogue by Chantal Fernando

- From the book you’re currently reading, or one you just finished, tell us what made you SWOON. What got your heart pounding, your skin tingling, and your stomach fluttering

- Try to make the swoon excerpt 140 characters (or less), if you are going to tweet about it. Use the hashtag #YABOUND when tweeting

This week, my swoon is from Going Rogue by Chantal Fernando!

"I guess this is a long time coming for both of us, then," I settle on. "We should enjoy the moment."

"I know I am," he murmurs, bringing me closer to him and kissing me, catching me off guard. My fingers grip his neck as his lips remind me just what I've been missing; heat pools in my lower stomach. His tongue gently touches mine, then he pulls back only to such on my lower lip. He places a soft kiss on my top and lower lip before pulling away and looking into my eyes, and I don't miss the smile in his eyes.

"I've been wanting to do that since you yelled at me from your car," he admits, sending me into a fit of laughter. He joins me.

- eARC, 22%

I adore this series. This book (the third and final one) is great, but book one was my favorite. This particular scene was really sweet. I highly recommend the series!

Preorder Blitz and Giveaway: The Surviving Girls by Katee Robert

Hey y'all! Today I have the preorder blast for The Surviving Girls on the blog today! This is book three of Katee Robert's romantic suspense series. I've read books one and two and really enjoyed both. Do yourself a favor and check out the series!

About the Book:

The Surviving Girls by Katee Robert
Book Three of the Hidden Sins series
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Publication Date: May 29, 2018

Official Summary:

Twelve years ago, Lei Zhang and her friend Emma Nilsson miraculously lived through the notorious Sorority Row Murders that left twenty-one of their sisters dead. Still wrestling with the trauma but finally out of the limelight, Lei and Emma are now devoted to helping other victims find closure. But most disturbing for Lei—beyond the gut-wrenching survivor guilt—is that the killer was her boyfriend. He’s behind bars, but she’ll never lower her guard again.

When a copycat killer targets Lei and Emma, FBI Agent Dante Young is put in charge of anticipating the sociopath’s every move. But what he doesn’t expect is his immediate and overpowering attraction to Lei. The closer they get to each other, the more desperate and terrifying the questions become: Who wants to finish what the killer started—and why?

Now Agent Young vows to protect Lei at all costs. If they have any chance of a future together, first they have to stay alive…

About the Author:

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Katee Robert learned to tell her stories at her grandpa’s knee. Her 2015 title, The Marriage Contract, was a RITA finalist, and RT Book Reviews named it 'a compulsively readable book with just the right amount of suspense and tension." When not writing sexy contemporary and romantic suspense, she spends her time playing imaginary games with her children, driving her husband batty with what-if questions, and planning for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.

The Excerpt:

Watching the women interact was fascinating on a level Dante wasn’t prepared for. He’d known Lei and Emma lived together, but he hadn’t had the opportunity to take a step back and consider the implications of that arrangement. Emma teetered on the edge of a breakdown and used Lei to pull herself back from the ledge . . . everything made a lot more sense.

They’d formed a symbiotic relationship, of sorts.

There wasn’t much data concerning situations like this one, mostly because they rarely arose, and each case was too individual to tie together in nice, easy studies. It stood to reason, though, that coming out of that sorority house as the only two survivors would send these women into one of two futures. In one, they never saw each other and pretended the other didn’t exist rather than be faced with the perpetual reminder of what they’d gone through.

In the other, they realized that no one would ever know what they went through as intimately as the other person who survived—and leaned on each other as result.

Lei was the one who finally met his gaze, and hell if her inky-dark eyes didn’t take his breath away despite the circumstances. Clarke had pulled both women’s photos on the way over there, but they were old—from their sorority days. Both beautiful in their own way, though they were a study in opposites. Emma had the sweet southern thing going for her, all blonde hair, big innocent blue eyes, and curves that suggested southern cooking. He couldn’t tell if her soft tone was practiced or natural, but it pricked at him every time she spoke.

Lei . . . She was something else altogether. She was petite in a way that should have read frail but reminded him of a blade waiting to be unsheathed. There were muscles beneath her light-brown skin, and he guessed that she’d have no problem keeping up with the monster dog at her feet during a search. Her straight black hair was pulled back into a no-nonsense ponytail, which left her features in stark relief. Beautiful, but doesn’t like to draw attention to it. Might as well have tried to hide the sky.

Fuck, get it together. You’re here to interview them, not to lose your damn mind over Lei Zhang.

Yes, she was beautiful, but he’d dealt with beautiful women before without jeopardizing his professional persona. Dante didn’t know what it was about this woman that called to something in him, but he had to shelve it.

He couldn’t afford to be distracted.

She clasped Emma’s hand but turned her body to face him more fully. “The night of the murders, I let Travis Berkley into the Omega Delta Lambda house. We’d been dating four months and he told me he had a surprise.” Her lips twisted. “It was against the rules, but girls broke the rules all the time.”

He noted her knuckles whitening where she held Emma’s hand, but her voice maintained its steady tone. “We had sex. Approximately an hour later, something changed. I still have problems putting it into words. Travis just . . . shifted. It was like he’d taken off a mask and I didn’t recognize the man beneath. He hit me. A few times.” She absentmindedly touched the little hooked scar on her cheekbone. From Travis’s ring. “I passed out. When I woke up, he’d barricaded my door shut and I could hear their screams.”

Lei’s breath hitched, and it was almost as if she inhaled and Emma exhaled. The blonde lifted her chin. “I was in the basement studying when it started. Finals were coming up, and I was struggling in history and needed the extra study time. The first sign of something wrong was Travis hauling Sarah—” She cut herself off and flinched. “I’m sorry. It’s hard to say their names, even now.”

Clarke huffed out a breath. “You don’t have to name every single girl he killed. We know their names. We know their stories. We just want to hear how it all went down from your perspective.”

They wouldn’t find anything new here. Dante knew it, and he suspected Clarke knew it, too. These two women had told their stories countless times over the years, and if there was information they hadn’t shared before now, he highly doubted this would be the time it’d magically come out.

Hearing the story through their own voices was a whole hell of a lot more jarring than reading it in the file, however.

Emma took them through it. How Travis Berkley brought the entire house of girls into that basement, how he was charming and terrifying and told them that he’d let them go one by one . . . if they did exactly as he asked. It wasn’t until the night was over and no one had come to save them that the remaining girls realized what was happening, and even then, they were too afraid to try to overpower him.

Herd mentality. Travis had to have known he could manipulate the whole group as long as he got them scared and in a single place. They believed the pretty lie because the truth was impossible to wrap their minds around.

Emma’s voice shook. “There were still . . . ten of us left when I realized I wasn’t getting out of that house alive—that none of the girls had gotten out alive like he’d promised. When he took the next girl, I hid under the couch.”

“None of those girls saw you hide?” Clarke frowned. “I find that hard to believe.”

“I don’t know. I don’t . . .” She dropped her gaze as if she couldn’t bear to hold her head up any longer. “We were in shock at that point—just sitting there, lost in ourselves. We didn’t talk. We didn’t even look at each other. We just sat there and . . . contemplated the fact we were going to die. I don’t know if they even noticed I was gone. I hid until every single one of them was gone. And he just . . . walked out.”

“He came for me. I guess it was then.” Lei didn’t shrink in on herself. She seemed to grow taller, sit straighter. “I heard him removing the barricade and I panicked. After listening to that all night . . .” She shook her head. “I knew what would happen if he got back into my room, so I climbed out the window.”

Clarke went still. “I saw the list of your injuries. You had a broken arm, your knee was so fucking swollen you shouldn’t have been able to walk, and you had several head wounds and a handful of broken ribs on top of that. How the hell did you climb out a window?”

Lei shrugged on shoulder. “He would kill me if I didn’t. I figured falling to my death was preferable to letting Travis have me, so I took my chances.”

It was only sheer dumb luck that it was late enough in the morning that a student jogging past saw Lei. By the time he’d come back with help, Lei was unconscious in the flower bed and Travis was gone.

Dante sat back, going over the story again in his head. As he suspected, there was no new information, but they’d have been remiss if they didn’t go over it one more time. He exchanged a look with Clarke. The killings in Seattle held some key differences. He didn’t think any of the girls had willingly let the unsub in, and he had carved his message into their bodies when he was through.

A message that might or might not have been meant for Travis Berkley. Hard to believe that someone who’d gone through the trouble of researching the murders would get the killer’s name wrong, but the alternative was that the girls’ deaths were meant as tribute to someone else. Both possibilities stretched the realm of belief and didn’t make a damn bit of sense.

The tension in the room grew like it was a living thing, coiling and snapping between the four of them. Once Dante and Clarke left, things would move quickly. They had to talk to Berkley. They had to head back to Seattle to go over things again with Detective Smith and the ME. They had to track down this bastard before he continued with whatever plan he’d begun with those girls’ deaths.

Dante, at least, would have the comfort of motion to keep him distracted from the scenes that he’d witnessed. Lei and Emma wouldn’t have even that. He leaned forward, catching Lei’s attention. “We can assign a protection detail. I don’t think you’re in any immediate danger, but if it would help ease your mind, I’ll make some calls.”

Lei’s lips quirked up at the edges, but the smile never came close to reaching her eyes. “Dante—Agent Young—we were in immediate danger the second that asshole singled Travis out as someone he wanted to emulate. We’re more than capable of taking care of ourselves.”

Copyright © 2017 Katee Robert

The Giveaway:

Enter to win a grand prize of a $25 Amazon Gift Card or three (3) runner-up copies of a backlist eBook from Katee Robert!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday (#282): Fire & Heist by Sarah Beth Durst

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week, I'm featuring:

Fire & Heist by Sarah Beth Durst
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: December 4, 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

In Sky Hawkins's family, leading your first heist is a major milestone--even more so than learning to talk, walk, or do long division. It's a chance to gain power and acceptance within your family, and within society. But stealing your first treasure can be complicated, especially when you're a wyvern--a human capable of turning into a dragon.

Embarking on a life of crime is never easy, and Sky discovers secrets about her mother, who recently went missing, the real reason her boyfriend broke up with her, and a valuable jewel that could restore her family's wealth and rank in their community.

With a handpicked crew by her side, Sky knows she has everything she needs to complete her first heist, and get her boyfriend and mother back in the process. But then she uncovers a dark truth about were-dragon society--a truth more valuable and dangerous than gold or jewels could ever be.

New Sarah Beth Durst book! I loved Vessel and can't wait to read this new YA book. It sounds really cool!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday (13)

Happy Tuesday! Today I've decided to participate in Top Ten Tuesday, formerly hosted by Jamie at The Broke and the Bookish, now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.

Today's topic is: 

Best Character Names

Zahra from The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

Casimir from Ruined by Amy Tintera

Solara from Starflight by Melissa Landers

Aileana from The Falconer trilogy by Elizabeth May

Crowe from Devils & Thieves by Jennifer Rush

Aelyx from Alienated by Melissa Landers

Arin from The Winner's Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski

Perry (Peregrine) from the Under the Never Sky trilogy by Veronica Rossi

Aric from Endless Knight by Kresley Cole

Jessamin from Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

There are so many more names that I can list! These are just the first that come to mind. There's something in a name, that's for sure. Fun fact: two of these names are ones that I'm considering naming my hypothetical potential future children!