Review: “The Never Tilting World” by Rin Chupeco

The Never Tilting World
Title: The Never Tilting World
Series: Never Tilting World #1
Author: Rin Chupeco
Publication Date: October 15, 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves
ARC provided by the publisher through Edelweiss. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Two young goddesses try to right a world gone wrong in Rin Chupeco’s newest fantasy duology The Never Tilting World.

Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon. But seventeen years ago, one sister’s betrayal defied an ancient prophecy and split their world in two. The planet ceased to spin, and a Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in perpetual night, the other scorched by unrelenting sun.
While one sister rules Aranth – a frozen city surrounded by a storm-wrecked sea – her twin inhabits the sand-locked Golden City. Each goddess has raised a daughter, and each keeps her own secrets about her sister’s betrayal.
But when shadowy forces begin to call their daughters, Odessa and Haidee, back to the site of the Breaking, the two young goddesses – along with a powerful healer from Aranth, and mouthy desert scavenger – set out on separate journeys across treacherous wastelands, desperate to heal their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands.

“A demoness is what men call a goddess they cannot control.”

A strong opening for a strong story, The Never Tilting World blew me away. From the amazing world-building down to all the carefully laid out plot twists, this book had everything I wanted and more. It entertained and made me think: about sisters and that invisible thread connecting them, about power and sacrifice, and of the broken world handed down to us and what we could do to heal it.

Rin Chupeco’s writing really shone through in this book.

With details so vividly described they’re almost tangible, this story’s world-building is just something else. The idea of a world that has stopped spinning, split in two by a great unknowable abyss was a fresh one to me. The two halves – one veiled in the darkness of a never-ending night frozen and battered by tempestuous storms, the other languishing under the heat of a set that never sets – and the element-based magic system reminded me a bit of The Avatar: The Last Airbender and Mad Max.

Having multiple point-of-view characters can be a tough thing to work with. Sometimes it works, others it doesn’t. For TNTW though, it’s the latter. In fact, I think, it’s the best way to tell this particular story.

The two halves of the split world setting of this world is a huge ground to cover. Each side’s widely (and wildly) differing natures create an equally diverse set of challenges for everyone in this book. Chupeco, however, used her characters effectively and maximized the use of the first-person narrative. The four POV characters – Odessa and Lan, Haidee and Arjun – give readers a complete and comprehensive view of the story’s world all while moving the plot.

I must admit, for the first 20% of the book I felt kind of overwhelmed. There were a lot of foundational parts of the world-building thrown in with the narrative in the opening part and it was a sensory overload. Processing and separating the plot while trying to get a feel of what the world looked like and how it functioned became a task. Once things start gelling together though, everything just flowed and those bits laid out at the beginning of the book made a whole lot of sense. Plot twists (especially that ONE involving a supporting character) were deftly foreshadowed without sinking down the surprise factor. This is actually one of the first books I’ve read in a while that I wasn’t able to predict how things will go, and I was all the better for it.

The main characters were a treat to read about. They all have distinct voices and unique personalities, making them easy to tell apart. I enjoyed reading about them – Arjun more than most because he’s just hilarious even when he’s not trying. But, as fun as following their journeys through their world and, in turn, watching them grow as characters, I wasn’t able to really personally connect with any of them. This is not something necessarily bad, it’s just a matter of different experiences. Nevertheless, this difference did not stop me from rooting for all four MCs to succeed (or stay alive and unharmed.)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from beginning to end. It’s an epic adventure featuring young characters who are willing to take on the challenge of righting the wrongs of those who came before them – to break the cycle. It tackles climate change in all its harshness and destruction, but it still carries with it a hopeful note.

The Never Tilting World is a great start to a new series. It tied off a handful of the plot threads it pulled in but left enough to give the sequel a comfortable starting point. I definitely have a number of questions I want to be answered (What exactly did Asteria and Latona do?) and you can be sure that the moment the next installment hits the shelves, I will be making a grab for it. This is a must-read!

about the author

Rin Chupeco

Raised in Manila, Philippines, RIN CHUPECO writes about ghosts and fantastic worlds. She is the author of The Bone Witch series, The Suffering, and The Girl from the Well.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr

Mini-reviews: “The Impossible Girl” and “A Beautiful Poison” by Lydia Kang

I’ve been reading book after book in the last couple of months, but have neglected writing reviews for them as usual. I’m going to rectify that starting with these two books that I’ll be reviewing in this mini-reviews post.

I read The Impossible Girl and A Beautiful Poison back in April when I was on my free trial of Kindle Unlimited. I enjoyed both of these two as they both appealed to the history nerd in me and the medical professional that I am. The crime mystery element weaved into these two books was another thing I really liked about these books.

Given all their similarities though, these two books stand well apart from each other. And me being me, might just prefer one over the other a little bit more.

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Title: The Impossible Girl
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Apple Books

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

Two hearts. Twice as vulnerable.

Manhattan, 1850. Born out of wedlock to a wealthy socialite and a nameless immigrant, Cora Lee can mingle with the rich just as easily as she can slip unnoticed into the slums and graveyards of the city. As the only female resurrectionist in New York, she’s carved out a niche procuring bodies afflicted with the strangest of anomalies. Anatomists will pay exorbitant sums for such specimens – dissecting and displaying them for the eager public.

Cora’s specialty is not only profitable, it’s a means to keep a finger on the pulse of those searching for her. She’s the girl born with two hearts – a legend amnog grave robbers and anatomists – sought after as an endangered prize.

Now, as a series of murders unfolds closer and closer to Cora, she can no longer trust those she holds dear, including the young medical student she’s fallen for. Because someone has no intention of waiting for Cora to die a natural death.

This book was immensely interesting especially with all the medical bits and pieces thrown into the narrative. I ended up on an hour’s worth of research rabbit hole after this, reading more about resurrectionists and the history of anatomy (which was intriguing and gruesome and brow-raising at varying measures.)

But, more than the fascinating history of the time, it was the characters that got me. Cora was just such a strong main character. She’s wily, smart and cunning, but she’s also vulnerable, closed-off. Theo, while immediately appearing to be the opposite of Cora’s grey cloud personality, has secrets of his own. Together, these two form a formidable bond that had me rooting for them right until the very end.

This was a carefully crafted story full of twists and turns. The end actually took me by surprise in a good way. I never expected the ending to happen the way it happened, but when I finally got to it, I realized that it has been hinted to all throughout the book. It’s a testament to Lydia Kang’s subtle plotting, something that I very much appreciated.

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Title: A Beautiful Poison
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Apple Books

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

Just beyond the Gilded Age, in the mist-covered streets of New York, the deadly Spanish influenza ripples through the city. But with so many vicims in her close circle, young socialite Allene questions if the flu is really to blame. All appear to have been poisoned – and every death was accompanied by a mysterious note.

Desperate for answers and dreading her own engagement to a wealthy gentleman, Allene returns to her passion for scientific discovery and recruits her long-lost friends, Jasper and Birdie, for help. The investigation brings her close to Jasper, an apprentice medical examiner at Bellevue Hospital who still holds her heart, and offers the delicate Birdie a last-ditch chance to find a safe haven before her fragile health fails.

As more of their friends and family die, alliances shift, lives become entangled, and the three begin to suspect everyone – even each other. As they race to find the culprit, Allene, Birdie, and Jasper must once again trust each other, before one of them becomes the next victim.

A Beautiful Poison was just as interesting as The Impossible Girl. Lydia Kang again uses her medical background and history – the Gilded Age this time – to create a vivid backdrop to her story.

However, I felt like the author just pulled on a bit too much in this one – looping in WWI, the Spanish Flu into this story’s collection of strings. I love plot twists like any other reader does but, with this one, it felt overdone, unnecessarily overcomplicated. It didn’t help that the relationship between the three main characters – Allene, Jasper, and Birdie – was already complex in itself. The three have their own agendas and constantly maneuvered over and around one another just so they get what they want simply because they want it. They aren’t exactly the kind of characters you’ll root for, and I didn’t. I, maybe, felt a bit of empathy but I didn’t care enough about them even after the book ended.

What kept me reading, however, is the mystery – the whodunnit part – that I think was still well done. Piecing together the clues dropped in between dialogues and scenes kept my mind turning. The final twist in this story was a total surprise.

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Both books, though classed as adult fiction, have great crossover appeal. Teens and young adults will just as easily love them. I definitely would recommend them to mystery and historical fiction readers.

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.

Follow the Tour

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

 

Review: “Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune” by Roselle Lim

42051103Title: Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune
Author: Roselle Lim
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Imprint: Berkley
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Pre-order: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo

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

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

 

Warm and touching, Roselle Tan’s debut touches on loss, family, culture, self-discovery and the healing power of food.

At the news of her mother’s death, Natalie Tan returns home. The two women hadn’t spoken since Natalie left in anger seven years ago, when her mother refused to support her chosen career as a chef. Natalie is shocked to discover the vibrant neighborhood of San Francisco’s Chinatown that she remembers from her childhood is fading, with businesses failing and families moving out. She’s even more surprised to learn she has inherited her grandmother’s restaurant.

The neighborhood seer reads the restaurant’s fortune in the leaves: Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother’s cookbook to aid her struggling neighbors before the restaurant will succeed. Unfortunately, Natalie has no desire to help them try to turn things around – she resents the local shopkeepers for leaving her alone to take care of her agoraphobic mother when she was growing up. But with the support of a surprising new friend and a budding romance, Natalie starts to realize that maybe her neighbors really have been there for her all along.

There are those rare books that leave you feeling light and full all the same time. Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is one of those books.

Deliciously magical and vibrant, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune was a treat to read. Roselle Tan weaved together a charming story that centers on family, community, and self-discovery using food a mediator – a bridge – between characters, bringing them together.

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Loss – the dealing and accepting of it- is another theme central to this book. Having lost her mother right before the start of the story, Natalie had to deal with anger, loss, and grief. She hasn’t seen nor spoken to her mother in the whole seven years she was gone from their home in San Francisco, and the suddenness of her death understandably brought out some hidden resentments and, of course, regrets. It was heartwarming how Tan handled this part of her story, depicting with great care and love the nuances, values, and rituals of an Asian family.

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Though Natalie carries the task of moving the story, the secondary characters added more color into the narrative. They are the community Natalie re-discovers and gains amidst her loss, and each one of them has their own thread in the story. Celia and Old Wu are the most memorable of these characters for me, and they were quite contrasting. Celia is such an open person, friendly and bright and vivacious. She takes in Natalie immediately, welcoming her into the fold and guiding her and re-introducing her to their old neighborhood. Old Wu, meanwhile, is a traditionalist. I’ll admit that I didn’t like him at first. He was too harsh Natalie and I felt that he judged her without even trying to get to know her. As the story went on and I got to know his connection with Natalie’s laolao, I understood where he was coming from. I thoroughly enjoyed reading parts where these two supporting characters appear and the difference between them only made them all the more fun to get to know.

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While I loved most of this book, there were still a few things I thought could have been done better. The story meandered at times, spending too much time dwelling on one moment instead of moving on. The connection between plot threads also felt spotty at some points in the story, but perhaps the biggest issue I had was the romance. It was unnecessary and it felt like it was added as an afterthought. The story could have stood on its own without it. Daniel didn’t add much into it anyway, and I actually think Natalie talking about her ex-fiancé had more page-time than Daniel.

Overall, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune was an incredibly delightful read. This is not YA but could easily be enjoyed by a younger audience. It was such a heartwarming and delightful story about family and community. All the food mentions in this book will certainly make you hungry so take it from me and have some snacks handy by your side before reading this.

P.S. I’ll definitely try my hand at all the recipes in this book even if I know I’m a Celia and no Natalie. You’ll get the joke when you read this book.

about the author

Roselle LimROSELLE LIM was born in the Philippines and immigrated to Canada as a child. She lived in north Scarborough in a diverse, Asian neighborhood.

She found her love of writing by listening to her lola (paternal grandmother’s) stories about Filipino folktales. Growing up in a household where Chinese superstition mingled with Filipino Catholicism, she devoured books about mythology, which shaped the fantasies in her novels.

An artist by nature, she considers writing as “painting with words.”

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

INTL Blog Tour + Review: “Stay a Little Longer” by Dawn Lanuza

Stay a Little Longer (Dawn Lanuza)

Title: Stay a Little Longer
Author: Dawn Lanuza
Publication Date: May 28, 2019
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Pre-order: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Books-A-Million | Kobo | iBooks

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

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

 

A perfect romantic read, Dawn Lanuza’s Stay A Little Longer is sure to leave hearts beating faster and feeling just as full.

They were perfect strangers – all perks, no strings. Until they weren’t.

Elan wasn’t supposed to meet Caty. She lived halfway arounf the world, and he barely left Manila. Yet here he was, giving her a ride to the airport. Covinced that they would never have to see each other after that day, Elan and Caty started to bond over truths, dares, stolen kisses, and games in hotel rooms and bars.

With brief encounters that turned them from acquiantances to friends – tipping to the point of lovers, always – will Elan and Caty keep settling for a day, or will someone finally dare to stay long enough to discover: Is this love?

I have a confession.

I am just a little bit in love with Stay a Little Longer.

Okay, I lied. I’m in love with this book. Like a lot in love.

With a realistic storyline a lot of people would be able to relate to, likable and believable characters, and straightforward and succinct writing, there’s a lot to love in this little book. It was a quick read, with only 200++ pages. I managed to finish reading this within the same day I started it. But, even with its brevity, Dawn Lanuza made every page count. She wielded perfect control of the story’s pace, dropping hints for readers to pick up just enough to tease them and unloading revelations about the characters in all the right places. Maybe the third person perspective made me feel like there’s still somehow a transparent wall in between me and the characters, but nevertheless, it didn’t prevent me from enjoying the story.

As much as I loved the writing though, it was the characters – Elan and Caty – who were the stars of this book.

Stay a Little Longer Quote #1

When we first meet Elan and Caty they were both in love with other people. Living in opposite halves of the world, the two wouldn’t have met but chance brought them together.

Caty and Elan couldn’t be more different from one another. She’s loud and sometimes brash, while he’s quiet and closed-off. However, as they began to get to know one another, the two discover unlikely similarities until what started off as awkward became familiar, instinctual even – strangers becoming friends then evolving into something more, always hovering over an invisible line.

I loved Caty and Elan. I think most people will find a bit of themselves in both characters. They were real and relatable, and so, so easy to like. I rooted for them from the get-go. They had great chemistry and their attraction was very obvious right from the beginning of the story. It was truly a treat watching these two come together in the end, frustrating and tough as it was at times.

Stay a Little Longer Quote #1 (1)

Stay a Little Longer perfectly captures the push and pull of falling in love – its sweetness and urgency, its mess and complications. It didn’t discount the difficulties of maintaining a long distance relationship, which I, as a person whose own LDR burned out, appreciated. The ending was perfect and entirely satisfying, a balm to my jaded heart.

This book has my highest recommendations. Romance and NA readers will definitely find it easy to fall in love with this one, but I think everyone else will find something in Stay a Little Longer that they will enjoy. I will definitely explore other #romanceclass titles after this.

About the Author

Dawn Lanuza

DAWN LANUZA writes contemporary romance, young adult fiction, and prose poetry. She has two first loves – music and writing – and is lucky enough to surround herself with them. She currently lives with her family and a very loved cream toy poodle.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 

 

Follow the Tour

Check out the rest of these cool bloggers and their blogs for the rest of the Stay a Little Longer Blog Tour hosted by The Royal Polar Bear Reads and The Nocturnal Fey.

May 22

Erika @ The Nocturnal Fey

Rafael @ The Royal Polar Bear Reads

Jen @ Jen D Bibliophile

May 23

Angela @ Hiding Behind Books

Jenny @ Levicorpvs Blog

Alice @ Married to Books Reviews and Blog

May 24

Shaa @ Moonlight Pages

Cathrina @ Puggyreader Writes

Jennilyn @ Rurouni Jenni Reads

May 25

Ynnah @ The Youngvamp’s Haven

Bryan @ Bryan Hoards Books

Rachel @ In Between Book Pages

May 26

Naadhira @ legenbooksdary

Gerald @ Gerald the Bookworm

Danielle @ dmcireadsblog

May 27

Kat @ Reading After Ten

Princess @ Princess and Pages

Provocatrix @ Provocatrix

May 28

Kath @ The Last Reader

Jessica @ Endless Chapters

Rebecca @ Bookingway Reads 

And, to end this post, I’ll leave you with a song that reminds me just a little bit too much of Caty and Elan.