Title: Not Your Backup
Author: C. B. Lee
Genre: Young Adult: Sci-Fi, Superheroes
Publication Date: June 4th 2019
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Goodreads synopsis for Not Your Sidekick (first book in this series):
Welcome to Andover… where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.
I absolutely loved this book! It has queer rep for ace/questioning aro and I related to Emma so much in terms of her sexuality. And continue to I adore the Sidekick Squad. They’re all fun and amazing and strong and passionate. The characters all come from varying diverse backgrounds, all have different strengths and weaknesses, and their team dynamic was amazing, though fractured at times. I love how Emma doesn’t let the fact that she doesn’t have powers like her friends put her down, because she’s still amazing and badass and an extraordinary leader and strategist. She doesn’t needs superhero abilities to get out of sticky situations.
I loved how we get to explore more about different types of relationships in this book, ones that I didn’t know existed and wished that they’d teach in school like they do in Emma’s school. Emma and Bells friendship turned relationship was so sweet and pure and they care so much for each other and it’s just all so sweet.
The pacing of this book at times was a little slow, but all the fun banter and the sweet moments between Emma and her friends was worth it. The crew is finally getting somewhere with the resistance and I love how far the story has progressed from the first book, especially finding out some things that were left unanswered in the first two books. The plot is still intriguing and has my always wanting more. ALSO THAT END SCENE HAD ME GRINNING. BECAUSE THEY’RE GETTING SOMEWHERE.
Overall, I can’t wait for the next book, especially since it’ll be in Abby’s point of view, which I am definitely interested in reading about. She’s been acting a little different in Not Your Backup and I’m interested in possibly finding out why. Plus I’m excited to see more scenes with Jess hopefully! I will forever recommend this series and it has such a special place in my heart as I’ve been able to see myself represented in Emma and Jess.
Trigger warnings: internalised shame throughout Emma’s arp/ace questioning phase, some violence and offscreen deaths
Title: Girls of Paper and Fire
Author: Natasha Ngan
Genre: Young Adult: fantasy
Publication Date: November 6th 2018
My Rating: 4/5 stars
Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most cruel.
But this year, there’s a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.
In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.
Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.
Presented by James Patterson, Natasha Ngan’s lyrical, searing, visceral fantasy, Girls of Paper and Fire, will remind us how precious freedom is–and the price we must pay to achieve it.
I received an ARC of this book last year but due to exams I didn’t get around to it until May (I fell into a fantasy slump at the start of the year too). All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I didn’t realise how much I would love this book, and I’m glad I didn’t force myself to read it at the start of the year, as I probably would have enjoyed it less. This book is an #ownvoices Asian-inspired fantasy and it explores dark themes and topics and it’s so so good, and I think they delve into these topics really well. Girls of Paper and Fire also has f/f romance and I ADORE LEI’S AND WREN’S RELATIONSHIP. Wren is actually a badass trained warrior/assassin who probably has a soft heart. I actually liked the relationships that Lei develops with some of the other Paper Girls. Especially the sisterly one between Lei and Aoki.
The world building was pretty complex and we get to learn a bit of the country’s history (country? or is it kingdom?) The descriptions of the palace made the visualisation easier and honestly, Natasha Ngan’s writing is just beautiful and so descriptive without being overbearing. There are dark themes in this book, including sexual abuse and rape, and it also touches on development of feelings to a sexual abuser when they show kindness to you. I don’t know if they made sense, but essentially one of the innocent characters was treated kindly by the Demon King and she essentially fell in love with him. And it’s manipulative and wrong but it happens which is the saddest part. This book also tackles the topic of fighting for one’s freedom, which Lei does constantly.
I overall enjoyed this book despite it’s dark tone. Everyone needs to read this because it’s so good and explores important topics that need to be more openly discussed in media as well as young adult novels. I’m excited for the sequel, Girls of Storm and Shadow (HAVE YOU SEEN THE GORGEOUS COVER??)
Trigger warnings: rape, sexual abuse, animal abuse/death, violence, torture/branding
Title: Descendant of the Crane
Author: Joan He
Genre: Young Adult: fantasy
Publication Date: April 9th 2019
My Rating: 4/5 stars
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 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.
This recent fantasy release was AMAZING and the cover is just STUNNING. I am obsessed with this book, and I need a sequel to be announced asap. This book is another #ownvoices Asian-inspired fantasy (specifically Chinese), filled with lots of political intrigue, twists and turns that you wouldn’t expect and constant betrayals. Just wow, this book left me speechless and I though about it quite often after reading it.
I love Hesina’s character, her heart is really kind and good and sympathetic. I loved reading about her relationships with her adopted siblings and her strained relationship with her brother. Honestly everyone in this novel was interesting and you honestly don’t know who to trust and who to not.
We all get some good world building, and learn a lot about the kingdom’s history. The writing is also rich and refreshing and descriptive, however the pacing of the story was pretty slow. It took me a while to get into the story. It does pick up towards the end, and I found myself enjoying the last half of the book more because there were more plot twists, betrayals and actions. Also I felt like the romance was unnecessary and I probably would have preferred them to stay friends. In all honesty, Akira’s role only seemed to be important in the court room scenes, and that everyone else was more prominent in the story.
Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them, or are they on your TBR? I definitely recommend checking out all of them because they’re all amazing in their own right.