Review: “Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon” by Mary Fan

Stronger than a Bronze DragonTitle: Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon
Author: Mary Fan
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Imprint: Page Street Kids
Publisher: Macmillan
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC access provided by the publisher through NetGalley as part of the Fantastic Flying Book Club’s blog tour. All opinions expressed are my own.

An epic, adventure-filled steampunk fantasy, Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon is sure to take readers on a hero’s quest full of magic, danger, and action.

When a powerful viceroy arrives with a fleet of mechanical dragons and stops an attack on Anlei’s village, the villagers see him as godssend. 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.

I must admit, steampunk is one of the subgenres that I haven’t been exposed to much. So when I saw this book, I took my chance. And boy, it was more than worth it.

From plot to setting to characters, Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon was and had everything I wanted in a Fantasy. It threw together a mix of elements I never thought would go so well together – magic, lore, machines – all played in a backdrop inspired by Qing dynasty China. Mary Fan’s careful plotting shone throughout, all the twists and turns making the adventure joyride that was this book even more enjoyable.

But it didn’t start out that way for me.

While they ultimately ended up growing on me, for the first few chapters of the book Anlei and Tai seemed too troupe-y: Anlei playing the strong female character card who can and will kick anyone’s ass and Tai taking on the role of the charming but arrogant love interest. As the story progressed and their backstories were spilled though, I began to understand their motives and their nuances. Yes, Anlei is a tough girl, stubborn and incredibly capable but she’s also a daughter and a member of their small village’s community. She craved glory and adventure the same way her blood called for her to avenge her father’s murder, to protect her family, her village, and her people.

Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon quote #1

Tai, meanwhile, has a complicated history. Half-yueshen (pure spiritual beings who has free reign over the moon) and half-human, I think he doesn’t really know his place in the world. The yueshen won’t accept him into their realm because he’s half-breed, while his father hid him, foisting his care onto his servants. He likes to think the best of the family left to him and uses laughter and humor as both an armor and mask to hide behind.

It was wonderful watching Anlei and Tai grow close to each other. Even though they started out as begrudging allies (more from Anlei’s side rather than Tai’s,) the two eventually discover that they have more in common than they first thought. Both have noble causes, and the subsequent trials and hardships they faced together only served to peel back more and more layers of their characters. I couldn’t help but like them.

Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon quote #2

Though this was a mostly solid story, there were still a few details that could have been improved. The villain, Viceroy Kang, comes to mind immediately. As the main antagonist, he was typical – power-hungry and cruel – and unimpressive. It was a shallow rendering of a character that’s supposed to provoke our protagonists into taking action. His motivations were only briefly touched, and it left me with a few unanswered questions: Had he always planned the things he’d done even before he married Tai’s yueshen mother? Is that why he caught her and married her in the first place? I can live with these questions, but they’re just pesky enough to bug me.

Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon quote #3

The quick pace combined with the number of plot threads Fan tossed into the story could also sometimes be overwhelming. There were just too much happening at one single time, and, admittedly, I had to put the book down a couple of times to catch my breath and gather my thoughts.

Overall, Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon was an exceptional stand-alone that blended together steampunk and fantasy. This was one of the most vividly and creatively imagined stories I’ve read in a while. Though there were a few parts that could have been improved, they were minor and didn’t hinder me from enjoying the book. This one comes with high recommendations from this self-confessed fantasy lover.

about the author

authorMARY FAN is a hopeless dreamer whose mind insists on spinning tales of “what if.” As a music major in college, she told those stories through compositions. Now, she tells them through books – a habit she began as soon as she could pick up a pencil.

Mary lives in New Jersey and has a B.A. from Princeton University. When she’s not scheming to create new worlds, she enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and blogging about everything having to do with books.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr

Giveaway

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Win a copy of Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan (US only.) Giveaway ends June 25.

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JUNE 11TH

JUNE 12TH

NovelKnight – Interview
The Reading Corner for All – Review +  Favourite Quotes
Crowing About Books – Review +  Favourite Quotes
Caitlin Althea – Review

JUNE 13TH

Uwadis – Character Interview
Lost in Storyland – Review

JUNE 14TH

The Layaway Dragon – Review + Favourite Quotes
The Inked In Book Blog – Review + Favourite Quotes

JUNE 15TH

The Bibliophile District – Guest Post
In Between Book Pages – Review + Favourite Quotes
A Court of Coffee and Books – Review + Favourite Quotes

JUNE 16TH

Kait Plus Books – Interview
Moonlight Rendezvous – Review + Favourite Quotes
Port Jericho – Review

JUNE 17TH

Twilight Reader – Top 10
Utopia State of Mind – Guest Post
Betwixt the Pages – Review

 

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Can’t-Wait Wednesday: “Love from A to Z” by S.K. Ali

Can't Wait Wednesday

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted Tressa at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted Jill at Breaking the Spine.


Happy Wednesday!

Today I’m featuring a YA romance written by an #ownvoices author and featuring diverse characters.

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Title: Love from A to Z
Author: S.K. Ali
Publication Date: April 30, 2019
Imprint: Salaam Reads
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb.

Love from A to Z sounds like the perfect summer read and I’m really excited to get my hands on it. Good thing then that it’s coming out next week. If you want to read a bit of this book, Bustle featured its first chapter on their site. You can check it out from this link.

💗💗💗

Rachel

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What book/s are you excited for this week?

Review: “You Asked for Perfect”‘ by Laura Silverman

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Title: You Asked for Perfect
Author: Laura Silverman
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: March 5, 2019
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
TW: Anxiety, recreational drug use
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion.

 

Utterly realistic and relatable, Laura Silverman tackles the pressures and difficulties teens face in their academic lives in her sophomore title You Asked for Perfect.

Senior Ariel Stone is the perfect college applicant: first chair violin, dedicated community volunteer, and expected valedictorian. He works hard – really hard – to make his life look effortless. A failed Calculus quiz is not part of that plan. Not when he’s number one. Not when his peers can smell weakness like a freshman’s body spray.

Figuring a few all-nighters will preserve his class rank, Ariel throws himself into studying. His friends will understand if he skips a few plans, and he can sleep when he graduates. Except Ariel’s grade continues to slide. Reluctantly, he gets a tutor. Amir and Ariel have never gotten along, but Amir excels in Calculus, and Ariel is out of options.

Ariel may not like Calc, but he might like Amir. Except adding a new relationship to his long list of commitments may just push him past his limit.

It’s been a handful of years now since I finished high school. I wasn’t an exceptional student, but I still remember most of it – the struggle to fit in, competing with your classmates, balancing acads with extra curriculars, the pressure of maintaining high grades and a high weighted average to get into a good university. High school was tough and I was only happy, probably too happy, when I finally walked off with my diploma.

I guess, that’s what I was expecting from You Asked for Perfect when I started reading it:  tackle high school life – the good, the bad and everything in between. And that was exactly what I got! A very likable set of diverse characters, an adorable M/M romance and a whole load of Harry Potter references, there’s just so much to love in this book.

Where was this book when I was in high school myself? 

You Asked for Perfect was a refreshing yet still realistic take on academic anxiety and how the demand and struggle for perfection negatively affects young people. Laura Silverman explored this topic with much care and sensitivity while keeping the story fun and quirky.

Ariel was such a relatable character. Anyone, doesn’t matter how young or not young, will surely see a little of themselves in him (as well as the rest of the characters.) Ariel was smart, talented and funny; self-conscious and highly critical of himself. Reading his story took me back to the past and brought forth into memory a younger version of myself and of coffee-fueled late nights studying for an exam, cramming my head with information.

That I reminisced about high school, a part of my academic life that I’d much rather forget, was a testament to how well and effective Silverman crafted her characters. She brought to life colorful characters, characters that you can imagine living their own stories separate from Ariel’s. Rasha, Malka, Sook, Amir and (my namesake) Rachel – I was invested in what will happen to them and how well they will fare. It was just so much easier to care about a character when you feel like you know them, and that can only happen if they were fully fleshed out.

The romance part of this book was also another thing I loved. Ariel and Amir were ultra cute! These two totally had me shipping them from the very first time they appeared on the same page. And it was so adorable, how they got together! But while Amir plays an important part in Ariel’s life, their relationship played out on the sidelines – a critical subplot there to support the main story – and I appreciate that Silverman remained true to the focus of her story.

There’s much, much more to love about You Asked for Perfect. Diversity and representation, for one, with all the mains and secondary characters coming from different cultural backgrounds and sexual orientations (Ariel, Amir, Rasha, Malka and Isaac are all Jewish, Pari is Muslim, and Sook is Korean. Ariel is bisexual, Amir gay and Sook, a lesbian)  and I’m a 100% down for it. I also love all of the parts involving the parents in this book. Supportive and still very human, very flawed parents – it’s something that I wouldn’t mind reading more in the future.

Overall, You Asked for Perfect is an honest and lighthearted YA contemporary. With a diverse cast of characters, adorable romance and a plot most would be able to relate to, this book is an awesome read. I definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone, but most especially to contemporary lovers. You’ll fall in love with this book!

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Here’s a bonus playlist for y’all, inspired by Ariel and his great musical taste + a few songs that, I think, fits Amir and Ariel!

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About the Author:

Laura SilvermanLAURA SILVERMAN is an author and editor and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. She earned her MFA in Writing for Children at the New School. Her books include Girl Out of Water, You Asked for Perfect, and It’s a Whole Spiel. Girl Out of Water was a Junior Library Guild Selection.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

 

 

 

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GIVEAWAY!

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Win a copy of You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman. Open INTERNATIONALLY as long as Book Depository ships to your country. Giveaway ends February 24.

Good luck!

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FEBRUARY 11th

FEBRUARY 12th

The Book Raven – Review + Playlist

FEBRUARY 13th

Young Adult Media Consumer – Review + Favourite Quotes
Milky Way of Books – Review
The Bibliophagist – Review

FEBRUARY 14th

Vicarious Bookworm – Review + Playlist
Novel Ink – Review

FEBRUARY 15th

Literary Meanderings – Interview
Metamorphoreader – Review + Playlist
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Reading With Wrin – Review

FEBRUARY 16th

The YA Obsessed – Review
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Akithroughbooks – Review + Favourite Quotes
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FEBRUARY 17th

Vicky Who Reads – Review
A Bookish Dream  – Review

 

Challenging Challenges (aka Rachel takes on the Year of the Asian Reading Challenge)

This year promises to be a really good year in terms of new releases and debuts. I’m particularly happy to see more titles with Asian protagonists by Asian authors. As a long-time reader, this has been something sort of like a dream: to see characters who share my lineage, my culture and language – to see a bit of myself on the pages of a book I’m reading. I know there’s still a ways (lots and lots of them) to go, but this, finally, feels like a good start.

So, to celebrate this, I decided to actively seek out titles by Asian authors. This doesn’t just apply to new releases, though getting my hands on them is very much on my agenda, but also to older works because I’m sure I missed a couple of them. To help me with this goal, I’m taking on the Year of the Asian Reading Challenge hosted by Shealea from Shut Up, Shealea, CW from The Quiet Pond, Lily from Sprinkles of Dreams, and Vicky from Vicky Who Reads.

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6wddh96As my professors and clinical instructors drilled it into my brain when I was in college (Ugh! All those patient care plans!) I’m setting an entirely reachable and realistic goal this first year of the challenge. 11-20 books for the Indian Cobra (ain’t he cute!) badge. I already have one book under my belt this month – The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi, which was an absolute delight to read!

I want to go over the books that I already own but haven’t yet read first for this challenge. Here’s my first YARC 2019 TBR.

YARC 2019 TBR.png

I’ll be adding to this TBR as I go. I already have a few books in mind to follow these 5, but I got to finish the books in this first TBR before I go on a another buying spree. In the meantime, check out the hosts – Shealea, CW, Lily and Vicky – because they have other cool stuff connected to Year of the Asian.

Here’s me hoping for the best!

💗💗💗

Rachel

Can’t-Wait Wednesday: “Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix” by Julie Dao

Can't Wait Wednesday

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted Tressa at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted Jill at Breaking the Spine.


My pick for this week’s CWW was just released yesterday, but I haven’t yet visited my local bookstore (shocking, I know!😅) and I can’t wait to get my hands on this book.

32605122 Title: Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix
Series: Rise of the Empress #2
Author: Julie Dao
Publisher: Philomel Books/Penguin Random House
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Purchase: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks

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

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

It sounds amazing! If you’re looking for a Snow White re-telling, make it this one. Many of the blogger I follow have already read this and it has gotten a lot of rave review, so I’m getting this and the next time I go to the bookstore.

💗💗💗

Rachel

let's chat

What book/s are you excited for this week?