RELEASE DAY – Daughter of the Burning City (Amanda Foody)


Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

Category: young adult | fantasy | horror


RELEASE DAY – The Library of Fates (Aditi Khorana)


No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn’t enough.

The unthinkable happens, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos of a palace under siege. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.

Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?

Category: young adult | fantasy | Indian folklore | Asian setting | ownvoices


RELEASE DAY – Want (Cindy Pon)


Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits, protecting them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is, or destroying his own heart?

Category: young adult | fantasy | scifi | Taiwan setting | Asian setting | POC main character | Asian main character | own voices


RELEASE DAY – The Evaporation of Sofi Snow (Mary Weber)

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Ever since the Delonese ice-planet arrived eleven years ago, Sofi’s dreams have been vivid. Alien. In a system where Earth’s corporations rule in place of governments and the humanoid race orbiting the moon are allies, her only constant has been her younger brother, Shilo. As an online gamer, Sofi battles behind the scenes of Earth’s Fantasy Fighting arena where Shilo is forced to compete in a mix of real and virtual blood sport. But when a bomb takes out a quarter of the arena, Sofi’s the only one who believes Shilo survived. She has dreams of him. And she’s convinced he’s been taken to the ice-planet.

Except no one but ambassadors are allowed there.

For Miguel, Earth’s charming young playboy, the games are of a different sort. As Ambassador to the Delonese, his career has been built on trading secrets and seduction. Until the Fantasy Fight’s bomb goes off. Now the tables have turned and he’s a target for blackmail. The game is simple: Help the blackmailers, or lose more than anyone can fathom, or Earth can afford.

Category: young adult | fantasy | scifi | Native American main character


RELEASE DAY – Royal Bastards (Andrew Shvarts)


Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.

At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.

Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.

Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.

The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey . . .

Category: young adult | fantasy | high fantasy


RELEASE DAY – The Love Interest (Cale Dietrich)

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There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

Category: young adult | sci-fi | contemporary | romance | gay main character | ownvoices


RELEASE DAY – Flame in the Mist (Renee Ahdieh)

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The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she’s quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she’s ever known.

Category: young adult | fantasy | romance | retelling | POC main character | Asian setting | Japan setting


Review: Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Book Review: Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
book cover Book title Charm & Strange
Series No
Author Stephanie Kuehn
Pages 216
Year published 2013
Category | Genre Young Adult | Contemporary, Mental Health
Rating 4 stars

I somehow feel that I have to start this review by admitting that this is my third attempt on reviewing Charm & Strange. What is it about this book that make it so hard to review?

There are a couple of things, mainly:

  • the way it was structured. Kuehn told her story from 1st person point of view but from two different timeline: his current life and flashbacks of him as a kid. Both timelines build up to the climax—which is too spoilery to mention here
  • the best parts of it are the parts I cannot mention without spoiling you of the story itself.

With those challenges in mind, I decided to go back to free-form rather than forcing myself to write a structured review I cannot get through with. This will also be very short review.

Charm & Strange started like a psychological mystery. The MC was standing near the woods staring at the new girl in school, there was a person found dead near that place, and then one of their friends was missing. Charm & Strange is indeed a mystery story (among others), but it might not be the mystery you thought it was at the first glance.

The book told the story of a boy, Win and his past self, Drew. Win was a very clever student, a star athlete, and according to himself not a very nice person. He also believes he’s a monster. Throughout the book, Kuehn weaved us these interconnected stories on what happened to him during his Drew time that he became Win.

Reading Charm & Strange is like watching dreadful events unfolding, knowing it’ll tear your heart, but you just cannot look away. It was a strange book for sure, but it was also awfully compelling, I found myself reading this book while standing in the bus, one hand on the grab handle, one hand flipping the pages on my phone. One just had to know.

The relationships between people in this book are what made Charm & Strange for me. Both the bad and the good ones. I liked that in this book, even though Win was struggling to cope with his reality and the monster he believe he was, he still made time to try to be kind and helpful. I liked that Kuehn made him resilient even though he believed he was weak. Kuehn didn’t make her characters black and white and I appreciate C&S more because of this. It’s not to say that there aren’t characters you want to punch in the face though.

One thing I read about Stephanie Kuehn is that she tried to avoid the trope that romantic affection can transcend emotional pain. Reading Charm & Strange, you could tell she uphold her principle. There’s very little romance in this book and what romance there is never became the main focus of the story.

If there’s one thing I found a little annoying—and most likely it’s the case of it’s not you it’s me—is that at times, I found it a little too dramatic. It didn’t grandiose mental illness or anything of that sort, but there are times when I felt the author low-key waving her hands at me ‘LOOK HERE, THIS IS GOING TO SURPRISE YOU.’

I didn’t include a summary in this review because I’ve only just now read it while writing this review and it surprised me how spoilery it was. The best way to read Charm & Strange in my opinion is to go jump straight into the book without reading any synopsis or even review. However if you’d like to read a summary, you could go to the goodreads page here.

I personally prefer Stephanie’s description of the book:

“It’s the story of a boy who believes that he is a monster. And it’s about understanding why.”

Final score

4 stars
4 stars (out of 5 stars)

Let me know, have you read Charm & Strange or do you plan to read it? If you have read it, what do you think about the book? Feel free to agree and disagree with my thoughts about it.

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