Hi all! Thrilled to be coming to you today with my post on the Kingdom Above the Cloud blog tour, organized by the Fantastic Flying Book Club. Find the tour schedule here to read more posts by other bloggers, and be sure to enter the giveaway down below! Thank you to the FFBC and the publisher for sharing a copy in exchange for my review.
The Book and its Author
What if the nine Fruit of the Spirit and the Seven Deadly Sins were locked in a battle for control?
Abandoned as infants, Tovi and her twin brother were raised by an eclectic tribe of warm, kind people in a treehouse village in the valley. After her brother’s sudden disappearance Tovi questions her life and her faith in an invisible King. Ignoring her best friend Silas’ advice, she decides to search for her brother in the kingdom on top of the mountain.
Above the cloud, the Council of Masters receives their orders. Tovi and her brother are the objectives. King Damien has a plan and Tovi is the key. The Council of Masters want her, but will she remain unscathed?
Amidst the glamour of the kingdom above the cloud Tovi is torn between her own dark desires and unanswered questions. It starts with a snake and a crown. When the ring is complete, will her life be over?
Maggie Platt is a writer, traveler, cancer survivor, and dreamer. Her greatest joys are being Auntie M to her amazing nieces and nephew and sitting with students and friends over cups of coffee and deep conversations. She works at her alma mater, Anderson University in Indiana, and she lives in a cozy little cottage nearby where students come to sit on her couch just to laugh, cry, and talk about life.
This was an adventurous book full of spirit and lessons to be had. I had a great time reading about Tovi’s journey and watching her reconnect with her family. In many ways, self-actualization is at the heart of YA, and this story is all about Tovi exploring her beliefs and learning who and what to put faith in. Her sense of self and vision of her place in society was very specific, and I was unable to resonate with the questions she struggled with.
I also liked the significance of the hair and eye colors! That was a fun way to add a fantasy element to the story and still connect to character development. I love societies where the people have interesting traits that don’t mark them as “different” or “other.” Here everyone could have individual colors, and it had a unique meaning (which I can’t share because of spoilers! Go read this book!).
Overall, Kingdom Above the Cloud was a solid read. I do wish there had been a more complex storyline, and some more world-building beyond the history of Adia would have been nice, but otherwise a fun adventure. 3/5 stars.
I'm part of the Inkyard Press blogger/influencer team, so today I'm featuring We Didn't Ask for This by Adi Alsaid, for my stop on the blog tour! I've got a review and exclusive Q&A about the book down below.
Q: What's your favorite thing about Marisa Cuevas?
A: Her willingness to fight for what she believes in.
Q: I love the juxtaposition of a lock-in against a political protest. What was the most challenging part of threading those two very different pieces together?
A: Honestly, it was the logistics of actually keeping the students locked in. The political protest wouldn’t work without it, nor would the plot. So I had to find a whole lot of justifications that felt reasonable within the story. Other than that, one of my goals was to show, embodied in different characters, all the ways people react to political protests, and to make them feel like actual people, not just symbols.
Q: What do you most hope that readers take away from the story?
A: Getting others to care about what you care about is hard, but you’re allowed to try, and it’s possible to succeed.
Q: What inspired you to write this book?
A: I’ve been wanting to write a book that felt like my favorite book, Bel Canto, for a while now. So the very initial inspiration was a group of characters all stuck in the same place for an extended period of time. Then, to make it feel more YA, I thought of The Breakfast Club, but instead of cliques, just bring people with different passions together. Then, because of my increasing awareness over the last few years about environmental issues, combined with the fact that I was traveling and seeing those issues play out around the world, I brought in the fight for climate change.
Q: Is there a character that you found challenging to write? Why?
A: All my characters come easily to me. The challenge is working to get them right in revisions. Jordi Marcos, a sort of villain in the story, was one that was hard to get right, in order to make his actions feel justified. I also have a queer Muslim character in Amira, and I had to work—and had the fortune of being guided by a great sensitivity reader—to not make her representation be harmful.
Q: How does a typical writing day look like for you?
A: Assuming this means not in the time of COVID-19. I wake up and go straight to a coffee shop, where I work/avoid looking at my phone for about 3 hours or so. Then I usually have lunch, take a break by watching a movie, running errands, or something in that vein. Then another work session in the afternoon or late evening at another coffee shop or perhaps a bar, followed by cooking dinner. During deadline times there’s also usually a late night session at home.
Q: What are your current reading?
A: I’m about to finish The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy, listening to The Art of Logic in an Illogical World by Eugenia Chang, and my next read will probably be Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova.
Q: Is there something secret you can share with us about anything in the book or your experience writing it?
A: I don’t know about secret, but I’ll say that I had the unique experience of traveling the world while writing it. So, many of its words were written in the communal areas of hostels, on airplanes, trains, on an island in Fiji, and in many, many coffee shops.
About the Book
Central International School’s annual lock-in is legendary. Bonds are made. Contests are fought. Stories are forged that will be passed down from student to student for years to come.
This year’s lock-in begins normally enough. Then a group of students led by Marisa Cuevas stage an ecoprotest and chain themselves to the doors, vowing to keep everyone trapped inside until their list of demands is met.
Some students rally to their cause…but others are aggrieved to watch their own plans fall apart.
Amira has trained all year to compete in the school decathlon on her own terms. Peejay intended to honor his brother by throwing the greatest party CIS has ever seen. Kenji was looking forward to making a splash at his improv showcase. Omar wanted to spend a little time with the boy he’s been crushing on. Celeste, adrift in a new country, was hoping to connect with someone--anyone. And Marisa, once so certain of her goals, must now decide how far she’ll go to attain them.
Every year, lock-in night changes lives. This year, it might just change the world.
Thank you to Inkyard Press for sharing a copy of We Didn’t Ask for This in exchange for my honest review.
I’m shocked by some readers' negative responses to this novel. Many people are saying it sensationalizes climate change and trivializes the work of Gen Z to fight for proper legislature and environmental protections, but I think the book is a topical commentary on the nature of these protests and does no harm to the cause.
Alsaid shifts perspective fluidly from one character to another, which I loved. Subtle connections between each moment in the story allowed me to travel around the school and understand the events from multiple points of view. This way, I got to know the whole cast, and how Marisa’s actions catalyzed their own stories.
This novel is as much about the environment as it is about the bond the lock-in forges between the kids. Alsaid emphasizes the transience of the school, but I liked that the chemistry was still there. Part of the Breakfast-Club-like charm of this story is its main four-some, who have little in common, yet find a way to connect.
Part of the fun of my reading experience came from the fact that this story was, very obviously, a story. It had serious tones and reflected on real world issues, but for the most part the novel was light and funny. The theoretical lock-in had humor itself because of how unrealistic the activities were. Cooking competitions? Sanctioned food fights? Spray-painting? A decathlon? It was great to get out of my own head and live in a world where students could run around and have fun for a weekend, even if that weekend was interrupted in the manner shown here. We Didn’t Ask for This is for anyone who also needs to imagine another life, one with this type of unrelenting fun.
I would recommend this novel to any environmentalist, as well as those looking for a bit of escapism. 4/5 stars!
Hi all! Thank you to the FFBC for organizing this Blog Tour for Witches of Ash and Ruin. Find the tour schedule here to check out other reviews and creative posts!
The Book and its Author
Modern witchcraft blends with ancient Celtic mythology in an epic clash of witches and gods, perfect for fans of V.E. Schwab's Shades of Magic trilogy andA DISCOVERY OF WITCHES.
Seventeen-year-old Dayna Walsh is struggling to cope with her somatic OCD; the aftermath of being outed as bisexual in her conservative Irish town; and the return of her long-absent mother, who barely seems like a parent. But all that really matters to her is ascending and finally, finally becoming a full witch-plans that are complicated when another coven, rumored to have a sordid history with black magic, arrives in town with premonitions of death. Dayna immediately finds herself at odds with the bewitchingly frustrating Meiner King, the granddaughter of their coven leader.
And then a witch turns up murdered at a local sacred site, along with the blood symbol of the Butcher of Manchester-an infamous serial killer whose trail has long gone cold. The killer's motives are enmeshed in a complex web of witches and gods, and Dayna and Meiner soon find themselves at the center of it all. If they don't stop the Butcher, one of them will be next.
With razor-sharp prose and achingly real characters, E. Latimer crafts a sweeping, mesmerizing story of dark magic and brutal mythology set against a backdrop of contemporary Ireland that's impossible to put down.
E. Latimer is a fantasy writer from Victoria, BC. Her middle grade novel, The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray, was published by Tundra Books, and was recently nominated for the Red Maple Fiction Award.
In her spare time, she writes books, makes silly vlogs with the Word Nerds about writing, and reads excessively.
Her latest novel, Witches of Ash and Ruin, will be released Spring/Summer 2020 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
Magic and murder collide in this contemporary fantasy novel that remains true to its bloody premise. Admittedly, I was skeptical at first, but I was hooked by the end. I was most pulled in by the plot—Dayna and Meiner’s quest to stop the Butcher, interspersed with magic and rituals, and the occasional shocking chapter from the perspective of the Butcher himself. The lesson here is that everyone has a story, even those who dabble in darkness.
Romance fans don’t have to stay away, though. Witches of Ash and Ruin also features a budding relationship between Dayna and Meiner, who start off as semi-rivals but grow to understand each other better over the course of the story. I love enemies-to-lovers plot lines, and this is no exception. The bond between the rest of Dayna’s coven was also lovely, and provided relief from her ultra-religious father, a priest who despises witchcraft. The spirit of sisterhood and family is strong in this novel, and I appreciated the mother-hen tendencies of Reagan, Dayna’s best friend, Yemi, her mom, and Bronagh, a grandmotherly woman who leads the witches.
Around 50% through, I found that I couldn’t put the book down. Several confrontation scenes moved at a fast pace as Dayna unraveled the mystery of the Butcher and came into her full powers as a witch. This was when everything began to feel more real to me, and the characters seemed to rise off the page. Any plot-focused reader will surely engage with the care taken to fully realize every plot thread, and character-focused readers will love the novel for the friendships and subtleties that appear throughout.
My only complaint is that I would have liked more world-building. The mythology wasn’t fully explained, and I like to explore the ways different books include the same deities and symbols. The spells and charms in Witches of Ash and Ruin were Celtic in origin, but I would appreciate more clarity on what each of them meant.
Overall, I quite enjoyed this novel. It was a great distraction from the outside world, and I fell easily into the murder mystery and the magical entities that played in this mystical version of Ireland.
Hi everyone! As you may know, I'm part of Sandhya Menon's Street Team, Sandhya's Sweethearts! So I'm here today with a blog tour post for her newest book, Of Curses and Kisses! I've read it, and I can assure you it is amazing. Follow along with the tour here, and check out the moodboard I made below!
I loved Of Curses and Kisses. Beauty and the Beast? Boarding school? Indian royalty? Angst and longing? YES. Give me ALL OF IT! This novel is about forgiveness, family, destiny, and of course-- unforgettable romance. I hope you'll give it a read!
The Book and its Author
Will the princess save the beast?
For Princess Jaya Rao, nothing is more important than family. When the loathsome Emerson clan steps up their centuries-old feud to target Jaya’s little sister, nothing will keep Jaya from exacting her revenge. Then Jaya finds out she’ll be attending the same elite boarding school as Grey Emerson, and it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. She knows what she must do: Make Grey fall in love with her and break his heart. But much to Jaya’s annoyance, Grey’s brooding demeanor and lupine blue eyes have drawn her in. There’s simply no way she and her sworn enemy could find their fairy-tale ending…right?
His Lordship Grey Emerson is a misanthrope. Thanks to an ancient curse by a Rao matriarch, Grey knows he’s doomed once he turns eighteen. Sequestered away in the mountains at St. Rosetta’s International Academy, he’s lived an isolated existence—until Jaya Rao bursts into his life, but he can't shake the feeling that she’s hiding something. Something that might just have to do with the rose-shaped ruby pendant around her neck…
As the stars conspire to keep them apart, Jaya and Grey grapple with questions of love, loyalty, and whether it’s possible to write your own happy ending.
Sandhya Menon is the New York Times bestselling author of When Dimple Met Rishi, Of Curses and Kisses, and many other novels that also feature lots of kissing, girl power, and swoony boys. Her books have been included in several cool places, including the Today show, Teen Vogue, NPR, BuzzFeed, and Seventeen. A full-time dog servant and part-time writer, she makes her home in the foggy mountains of Colorado. Visit her online at SandhyaMenon.com, on Twitter @smenonbooks or on Instagram @sandhyamenonbooks.
Hi y'all! I'm part of Inkyard Press's influencer/blog tour team, so I'm coming to you today with a review for Don't Read the Comments by Eric Smith, one of their Winter 2020 novels. Thank you to Inkyard for sharing an egalley with me, and know that this has not affected my review.
Slay meets Eliza and Her Monsters in Eric Smith’s Don't Read the Comments, an #ownvoices story in which two teen gamers find their virtual worlds—and blossoming romance—invaded by the real-world issues of trolling and doxing in the gaming community.
Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya—better known as popular streaming gamer D1V—regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent.
Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her, and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun—and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V.
At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new worlds…and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line…
And she isn’t going down without a fight.
Gamers are sure to feel at home in this contemporary, but even if you’ve never held a joystick, Don’t Read the Comments is for you. This novel tackles the struggles of existing as young public figures and creators in an incredibly sensitive and caring way. I felt so strongly for Divya and Aaron throughout, and I commend Smith for creating a romantic yet realistic idea of their worlds.
My favorite part of Don’t Read the Comments is the characters. I liked the dual-perspective used, and I enjoyed getting to know Aaron and Divya as they met each other in Reclaim the Sun. Both struggled with family issues and the ways in which gaming and technology impacted their lives, and Smith portrayed them incredibly sympathetically. I don’t even think I had a favorite among them, which is unusual for me.
I liked reading about Divya’s goal to put her mom through college with gaming, and her determination in the face of the trolls is inspiring. Her story is all about the dangers of modern-day celebrity, especially for young adults seeking to exist positively in online spaces where doxxing, real-world harassment, and racism are the norm for those who want to tear them down. I can’t speak to whether or not Divya’s experience is true to the gaming community because I’m not a gamer, but I will say that I was truly scared for her at times.
Aaron has a different issue: his mom wants him to become a doctor like her, but he just wants to write games and pursue his passion for development. He doesn’t want to let down his mom, but he also wants the freedom to choose his career. It was super rewarding to watch Aaron navigate this relationship while learning more about the darker side of gaming and indie game development.
The romance was totally adorable. Divya and Aaron have great chemistry, and despite the fact that their relationship is mostly online, we never miss out on any characterization. I especially liked the scenes where they gamed together in Reclaim the Sun, conquering planets and sharing resources. Those were moments in which I felt their happiness shine through the page, and I loved how their connection to the game allowed them to escape “real life” for a bit and just get to know each other.
Overall, Don’t Read the Comments is a cute yet thought-provoking novel about online communities, and the balance of danger and opportunity they provide. I recommend this book for anyone who needs an afternoon away with two very special characters. 4/5 stars.
Hi all! Sandhya Menon's next book, Of Curses and Kisses, is out next month! Yay! I and many other bloggers/booktubers on her street team are participating on the blog tour for the book, featuring reviews, Q&A's, movie castings, and many other creative posts. The tour runs from February 4th through the 25th, so I'm posting here a schedule for the tour in advance so that come February, you'll know exactly where to go! I've linked to these bloggers' homepages, so you'll have a chance to check them out right now. Booktuber's links go to their landing pages as well. Enjoy!
*tour header by Rameela (@stars.brite on Instagram)*
Hi all! So excited to be on the Blog Tour for Spellhacker by M.K. England, an electric sophomore novel that you need on your TBR. Visit the rest of the tour here, and don't forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of the page!
The Book and its Author
In Kyrkarta, magic—known as maz—was once a freely available natural resource.Then an earthquake released a magical plague, killing thousands and opening the door for a greedy corporation to make maz a commodity that’s tightly controlled—and, of course, outrageously expensive.
Which is why Diz and her three best friends run a highly lucrative, highly illegal maz siphoning gig on the side. Their next job is supposed to be their last heist ever.
But when their plan turns up a powerful new strain of maz that (literally) blows up in their faces, they’re driven to unravel a conspiracy at the very center of the spellplague—and possibly save the world.
M.K. England is an author and YA librarian who grew up on the Space Coast of Florida and now calls rural Virginia home. When they’re not writing or librarianing, MK can be found drowning in fandom, rolling dice at the gaming table, digging in the garden, or feeding their video game addiction. They love Star Wars with a desperate, heedless passion. It’s best if you never speak of Sherlock Holmes in their presence. You’ll regret it.
THE DISASTERS is their debut novel. Follow them at www.mkengland.com.
The stakes are high in this action-packed novel about a group of friends trying to save their home—and possibly the world. I loved Spellhacker’s group cast and magnetic tension in combination with the magical world it introduces.
Cast: Diz, Remi, Ania, Jaesin.
Diz: Kind of a jerk to her friends at all times, but England wrote her narration so sympathetically at all times that I couldn’t help but feel constantly sorry for her. Communication! It’s important! Especially with the friends you don’t want to leave!
Remi: Totally adorable. I just love them. Remi works with maz naturally as a spellweaver, and I loved the scenes where they got to make spells and use maz because I truly felt like I was right there, watching it come to life.
Ania: Techwitch. Rich. Mom friend. I fell so hard. She’s the one to take care of Diz, saving her in the very first scene, but also a powerful force if she’s angry.
Jaesin: I wish we got to see more of him! As Diz says, he has the most “mundie skills,” which means cooking and fighting, but he’s also fiercely protective and fun.
All of the characters are so well-rounded and wonderfully characterized! They are wonderful additions to the YA heist book canon, and I wish the book had been a little bit longer so I could have spent more time with all of them. I also wonder if switching POV’s would have been beneficial to the reading experience? We spend the whole book with Diz, and a lot of the emotions start to become repetitive as she spends most of the book in the same headspace, which can be articulated in a limited number of ways. I’d love to see what the others made of their situations, and how that would have impacted the storytelling. England is a great writer, so this definitely could have added to the book’s quality.
As much as I loved reading about the gang’s hijinx in Kyrkarta, my favorite part of Spellhacker was learning about the world. As explained in the blurb, magic (maz) is a commodity used by many citizens, but its availability is limited since the plague. I love an evil corporation, like we see in The Last Dragonslayer, one of my favorite books, and Spellhacker definitely takes us there with Maz Management. This bureaucratic realism adds a layer of ironic humor to the action.
Maz itself is an intriguing concept as well. Different strains glow different colors, and description throughout helps the reader visualize how Remi and Anya manipulate coils of it to create spells, including fun ones like playful animal replicas and dangerous ones such as firebombs. The glossary at the front of the book explains the different categories, and I found that helpful to refer back to. I liked the well-defined limits of the system, which showed the difference between the specifically digital abilities such as Diz’s hacking, and the magical abilities like Remi’s spell weaving.
Overall, I’d give Spellhacker 4/5 stars and encourage y’all to read it ASAP!
I'm back today on the Blog Tour for Every Other Weekend by Abigail Johnson, a new novel out this week from Harlequin Teen! Check out the other tour stops here, and stop by my Instagram to see the bookstagram tour and its participants! At the bottom of this page, after my review are my favorite quotes and a great giveaway for you to enter as well.
The Book and its Author
Adam Moynihan’s life used to be awesome. Straight As, close friends and a home life so perfect that it could have been a TV show straight out of the 50s. Then his oldest brother died. Now his fun-loving mom cries constantly, he and his remaining brother can’t talk without fighting, and the father he always admired proved himself a coward by moving out when they needed him most.
Jolene Timber’s life is nothing like the movies she loves—not the happy ones anyway. As an aspiring director, she should know, because she’s been reimagining her life as a film ever since she was a kid. With her divorced parents at each other’s throats and using her as a pawn, no amount of mental reediting will give her the love she’s starving for.
Forced to spend every other weekend in the same apartment building, the boy who thinks forgiveness makes him weak and the girl who thinks love is for fools begin an unlikely friendship. The weekends he dreaded and she endured soon become the best part of their lives. But when one’s life begins to mend while the other’s spirals out of control, they realize that falling in love while surrounded by its demise means nothing is ever guaranteed.
Abigail was born in Pennsylvania. When she was twelve, her family traded in snowstorms for year round summers, and moved to Arizona. Abigail chronicled the entire cross-country road trip (in a purple spiral bound notebook that she still has)and has been writing ever since. She became a tetraplegic after breaking her neck in a car accident when she was seventeen, but hasn’t let that stop her from bodysurfing in Mexico, writing and directing a high school production ofCinderella, and becoming a published author.
Review and Favorite Quotes
Every Other Weekend is a romantic coming-of-age story about split families, loss, and two teens learning to love and be loved. However, the length of the book and execution of several of the plot lines irked me, which has unfortunately lowered my rating.
I want to pause here and say that although I had my difficulties with Every Other Weekend, I am rating it 3/5 stars and saying, “it’s not you, it’s me.” I believe there’s a book for everyone, and this could be yours, so give it a chance!
Aaaaaaahhh!!! I'm so excited to be on the blog tour for Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen. I've got a review for you here today, and you can click here for more stops on the blog tour. Just don't forget to enter the fabulous giveaway down below as well!
The Book and its Author
When eighteen-year-old Ever Wong’s parents send her from Ohio to Taiwan to studyMandarin for the summer, she finds herself thrust among the very over-achieving kids her parents have always wanted her to be, including Rick Woo, the Yale-bound prodigy profiled in the Chinese newspapers since they were nine—and her parents’ yardstick for her never-measuring-up life.
Unbeknownst to her parents, however, the program is actually an infamous teen meet-market nicknamed Loveboat, where the kids are more into clubbing than calligraphy and drinking snake-blood sake than touring sacred shrines.
Free for the first time, Ever sets out to break all her parents’ uber-strict rules—but how far can she go before she breaks her own heart?
Abigail was born in West Virginia to a family of immigrants: Her mother is from the Philippines and her father from Indonesia, and her grandparents emigrated to those countries from Fujian and Shandong provinces in China.
Abigail grew up in Ohio and graduated from Harvard University and Columbia Law School. She worked in Washington DC for the Senate, as a law clerk for a federal judge, and now in Silicon Valley in venture capital and artificial intelligence. She also earned her Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.
In her spare time, she enjoys long walks with her husband and two boys, and hanging out with friends and over 100 family members in the Bay Area. She loves music and dances to it when no one is watching.
Thank you to the Fantastic Flying Book Club and Inkyard Press for sharing a copy in exchange for my honest review!
“Our cousins have done this program,” Sophie whispers. “Best kept secret. Zero supervision.”
And just like that, Ever Wong’s summer takes an unexpected turn. Gone is Chien Tan, the strict educational program in Taiwan that Ever was expecting. In its place, she finds Loveboat: a summer-long free-for-all where hookups abound, adults turn a blind eye, snake-blood sake flows abundantly, and the nightlife runs nonstop.
But not every student is quite what they seem:
Ever is working toward becoming a doctor but nurses a secret passion for dance.
Rick Woo is the Yale-bound child prodigy bane of Ever’s existence whose perfection hides a secret.
Boy-crazy, fashion-obsessed Sophie Ha turns out to have more to her than meets the eye.
And under sexy Xavier Yeh’s shell is buried a shameful truth he’ll never admit.
When these students’ lives collide, it’s guaranteed to be a summer Ever will never forget.
Loveboat, Taipei is an absolutely unforgettable novel about family, friends, and how to grow up without losing touch with yourself. Everything was absolutely perfect, and I can’t wait for everyone to read this book.
Ever, our main character, was a fantastic narrator. She’s full of spirit and newfound independence (which comes back to bite her in some ways, but bolsters her in others), and she’s ready to explore Taipei and make the most of her summer program, despite wanting to enjoy her last summer back home. She is resilient, always helping her friends, and so full of forgiveness it astounds me.
Family is a big part of Ever’s life: she’s got overbearing parents who want her to go to medical school despite her queasiness around blood and dreams of being a dancer, and she plans to fulfill their expectations and make them proud. To do what her dad couldn’t and become a doctor in the United States. In talking about Ever’s family, Loveboat, Taipei explored life in an immigrant family—the unfamiliarity with a faraway homeland and culture, but still not being considered fully American and regaining any status held from one’s past. The novel hits these notes perfectly in a stirring portrait of Ever, a daughter trapped under her parents expectations.
I also loved Ever’s friendships at Chien Tan. Sophie, Rick, Xavier, and the army of side characters were each well developed and full characters of their own right. Seeing this kind of group cast in a contemporary novel is fun to read, because each character has a chance to come into their own as the main character does. Loveboat, Taipei is a novel about defying expectations and growth, which comes across clearly in each of their journeys, not only Ever’s.
The romances were so adorable as well! I didn’t love the love triangle at first, but the resolution was satisfying and I enjoyed the ending (even if the epilogue felt trite). Rick was considerate and thoughtful, always taking care of Ever. Xavier had surprising depth, which was nice—it’s always neat to see a “playboy” character not be reduced to a stereotype. Wen gave each of them importance and backstory which added to the plot outside of their relationships with Ever.
The setting in Taipei was new to me, and the descriptions and cultural outings (both program sanctioned and, *ahem*, extracurricular) helped me learn more about the city and culture. I think it’s neat that Loveboat is based on a real cultural immersion program. It gave the novel a distinct real-world connection.
Wen writes with mastery, weaving a variety of themes and creating an intricate story that will tug at the heartstrings of any reader, no matter what genre you usually prefer. 5/5 stars, and one of my favorite reads of 2019. Definitely recommend!
I'm back! And I have a fun blog tour post to share today, with my review of Across a Broken Shore by Amy Trueblood. You can follow along here to see reviews and features by other bloggers, and scroll to the bottom to read my review and enter a great giveaway as well.
The Book and its Author
The last thing eighteen-year-old Wilhelmina “Willa” MacCarthy wants is to be a nun. It’s 1936, and as the only daughter amongst four sons, her Irish–Catholic family is counting on her to take her vows—but Willa’s found another calling. Each day she sneaks away to help Doctor Katherine Winston in her medical clinic in San Francisco’s Richmond District.
Keeping secrets from her family only becomes more complicated when Willa agrees to help the doctor at a field hospital near the new bridge being built over the Golden Gate. Willa thinks she can handle her new chaotic life, but as she draws closer to a dashing young ironworker and risks grow at the bridge, she discovers that hiding from what she truly wants may be her biggest lie of all.
Amy Trueblood grew up in California only ten minutes from Disneyland which sparked an early interest in storytelling. As the youngest of five, she spent most of her time trying to find a quiet place to curl up with her favorite books. After graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in journalism, she worked in entertainment in Los Angeles before returning to work in Arizona.
Fueled by good coffee and an awesome Spotify playlist, you can often find Amy blogging and writing. Nothing But Sky, a 2018 Junior Library Guild selection, is her first novel.
Thank you to Flux and the Fantastic Flying Book Club for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review.
An inspiring historical fiction novel about a girl’s exploration of 1936 San Francisco’s medical community, Across a Broken Shore is a great read for those who, like me, enjoy reading about women in STEM.
This novel was very character driven, and I enjoyed reading from Willa’s perspective. Her curiosity and drive to help her community was so honest and open-hearted. She recognized the prejudices against women in her time, and although she wanted to meet her family’s expectations, she also had no qualms about being ambitious and dedicated. Willa’s large family (four brothers, two parents) were also featured, and they each had distinct personalities and reflections on Willa’s role in the family, something that she considered often: how her family seemed to speak over her and turn her into their perception of who she should be. By meeting and working with Dr. Katherine Winston, Willa finds a place away from her home where she can make whatever she wants of herself.
A central part of the story revolves around the doctor that Willa shadows, Dr. Winston. I loved the development of their relationship, which I felt had a very natural progression. Dr. Winston was so encouraging to Willa, and taught her about the role a doctor plays in the community as well as the details of medical procedures. Women supporting and teaching younger women is a particularly special plot thread to me. I think the importance of generational recognition and sharing of knowledge can be represented in so many ways, and I’m glad that Trueblood made it a key aspect of this novel.
The main conflict for Willa was her struggle to balance her family’s dream that she take her vows as a nun, and her own desire to learn medicine and become a doctor. She values her religion strongly, and cares deeply for her family, but is also feeling massive guilt because many generations of MacCarthy women have become nuns. As the only girl in her family, she is expected to do the same, but her wish for education wars with her sense of familial obligation. Willa is admirably dedicated to her family, but we can see equal joy when she’s learning from Dr. Winston and seeing another path she could take.
I haven’t read many historical fiction books set during the Depression in the US, so the world-building in this novel was interesting for me. I liked that Willa’s story coincided with the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, tying her to a major American landmark. Through the novel, we got to read about the difficulties of building the bridge, and the risks the workers took to earn a living for their families. We also got to see a Hooverville in the city, which emphasized the extreme poverty felt by many during the Great Depression. Willa’s view of the Hooverville was unique in perspective because she didn’t view herself as well off, especially in comparison to some girls she knew, but gained new appreciation for her family's pub and livelihood once she saw how little other families had to live on. This strengthened her desire to aid her community as well, by checking up on families who needed medical attention, and bringing food to a couple of kids she’d met earlier.
There was also a sweet romance in the novel, between Willa and a bridge worker she meets. They were so cute, and I’m glad their relationship developed in the story, but I’m also glad that Willa’s journey didn’t begin to revolve around the boy.
My only problem is that at times, the plot felt repetitive. By this I mean that since most of the conflict in the novel was Willa’s choice between her two possible futures, she tended to go back and forth in her convictions every couple of chapters. There are other events in the novel, but a significant amount of page time is dedicated to Willa changing her opinion about being a doctor or being a nun. I wish her line of thinking had been a bit more linear. There’s definitely a place for indecisive characters, but in other regards Willa did not strike me as such, so I found this aspect confusing.
All in all, 4/5 stars! I am pleased to recommend Across a Broken Shore to any historical fiction fans, especially those who enjoyed The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, a notable title (and one that pops up often here!) featuring a girl exploring science in the early 20th century. Calpurnia Tate is a middle-grade novel, so perhaps readers who picked it up a couple of years ago might like to revisit similar themes in Across a Broken Shore.
Hey, I'm Shreya! I love to read, write, travel, and drink coffee.
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