Mini Reviews #24: March 2022 Reads

With The Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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I’ve been wanting to pick this book up for a while now, with its vibrant cover, mouth-watering description of food, and glowing reviews from people in the book community. I especially keep hearing praises about its audiobook, so I decided to listen to it and immediately blown away in the first chapter!

I can see why a lot of people praise the audiobook– narrated by Acevedo herself, she really brought the characters to life. It’s clear that she has the emotional connection with the characters as her narration is full of emotions and paint a vivid image of who Emoni is and her people around her. It’s undoubtedly one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever read and I highly recommend you to listen to it 🤩

I really enjoyed Emoni as a main character, with her persistence to her family and her dream and her passion for cooking. Having the story told from 1st person pov and getting to know her made me able to connect with her strongly. I love how much she cares and adores her daughter, how much she appreciates abuela but also the journey she had with abuela and her dad. Dedicated to strong women who supported her, Emoni herself has a strong support network of amazing women, from abuela to her best friend, chef xx and even her aunt from her mom’s side of the family whom she barely met. A book about cooking, Emoni’s passion for cooking really shines through as it’s not only about her skills but also how she enjoyed it, how it becomes an extension of her, but also the learning curve of actually learning it as a discipline.

I sadly just don’t care much for the romance, but other than that, With the Fire on High was truly worth all the hype!

From the New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award longlist title The Poet X comes a dazzling novel in prose about a girl with talent, pride, and a drive to feed the soul that keeps her fire burning bright.

Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.

Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.

The Descent of Monsters by Neon Yang

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I truly devoured this one. This is definitely my favorite installment in the series and I’m glad it has another book or else, this would be one of the most open ended ending for a series known to mankind!!!

If I could explain this book in one word, it would be explosive. Our main character Chuwan was explosive in her passion for truth and justice. The sequence of events were literally explosive. The truth exposed? Explosive. It’s told in letters/journals entry which means it reads really fast, faster than the previous 2 books in the series. I also couldn’t stop reading since we finally, finally spend more time within the Protectorate, learning about the workings and machinations of the Tensorate instead of working on the outside of it.

As previously mentioned, Chuwan was my favorite narrator since she’s not burdened by gift and tragedy like Akeha and Mokoya. She rose from the bottom of society to become a Tensor, not only for the prestige and living but also to help others. She’s fierce , capable, and dirty mouthed in her pursuit of truth. Reading this book felt like reading from a citizen instead of a hero or a prophet.

One thing I both like and dislike from the books in the series was how each book doesn’t immediately started from the end of the previous books. I had to reorient myself on whether the events happening, the creature slain was the same as the one in the end of previous book or not. The ending of this book in a way is not as abrupt as the other two, but it’s definitely the most open and for some, might not be the most satisfying. Despite all that, this book is one of my best reads this year so far!

JY Yang continues to redefine the limits of silkpunk fantasy with their Tensorate novellas, which the New York Times lauded as “joyously wild.” In this third volume, an investigation into atrocities committed at a classified research facility threaten to expose secrets that the Protectorate will do anything to keep hidden.

You are reading this because I am dead.

Something terrible happened at the Rewar Teng Institute of Experimental Methods. When the Tensorate’s investigators arrived, they found a sea of blood and bones as far as the eye could see. One of the institute’s experiments got loose, and its rage left no survivors. The investigators returned to the capital with few clues and two prisoners: the terrorist leader Sanao Akeha and a companion known only as Rider.

Investigator Chuwan faces a puzzle. What really happened at the institute? What drew the Machinists there? What are her superiors trying to cover up? And why does she feel as if her strange dreams are forcing her down a narrowing path she cannot escape?

The Deep Sea Duke by Lauren James

Rating: 3 out of 5.
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Sequel to The Starlight Watchmaker (which I read last month), this novella picked up from where the previous story ends with Dorian, Hugo and Ada travelling to Dorian’s home planet, Hydrox. It’s definitely less whimsical than the academy, in fact it reminds me of the movie Waterworld 😂 I still think the author did a good job in describing the planet in vivid detail, from the villa to the underwater palaces and the creatures inhabiting them. Even down to the economy 😂 It’s really fun to actually be in a planet instead of hearing about them, I wish we have more books exploring other planets…

This book is definitely an environmental fiction, with how climate change affect the refugee butterfly planet and how it happened. While it is fiction, it’s eerily similar with the problems we’re facing with fossil fuels and global warming, it’s not hard to see a possibly bleak future. However, I do think it’s explain the issue very well for younger audience but also not expanded enough to show the gravity of the situation.

I love how tender and tentative both Dorian and Hugo were; it’s been a while since I read this kind of romance 🥺 I’m not that invested in the romance but I do have a soft spot for them 🥺 The solution was very obvious but considering it’s middle grade, I think it’s a great book with well written world building, characters, and discussion on relevant social issues!

When Hugo and Ada travel to their friend Dorian’s planet for the holidays, android Hugo is anxious about being accepted by Dorian’s powerful family. But when they arrive on Hydrox, there are more pressing things to worry about, as the planet has been overrun by refugee butterflies. Displaced from their home by climate change, the butterflies have been offered sanctuary by Dorian’s parents, but they’re quickly running out of space.

Meanwhile, beneath the seas, a strange creature is wreaking all kinds of havoc …

Can Hugo, Dorian and Ada step in before the crisis gets out of control?

The sequel to The Starlight Watchmaker is particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 12+.

Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I started this because I was craving for some Asian-inspired fantasy but this book gave me so much more! The plot sounds really interesting, with mythology and magic weaved into the story but I admit I almost gave up within the first few chapters. I mean, a girl who’s “different”, a guy who’s an outcast and a prince? We all know where this is going, right?

At least I thought I knew, I thought it was just another YA book. I’m glad I didn’t stop reading because it totally blew away my expectations as I keep reading! It was unexpectedly feminist, with discourse on the nature of the animal wife and the competition itself. The world building was interesting, with the deities making appearances through the lore, the seasonal rooms and various yokai appearing. I was so sure of who Mari would end up with as the title is obvious and that things will wrapped up neatly with a bow. But then the bowties appear and we’re only halfway done with the book- that’s when I realize this is so much more than competitions and romance with slavery, coup, and magic and I let myself be surprised by the book.

At times this book certainly went way too fast– as the competition was the main attraction to the book, I feel like we could spend more time in the first half exploring the rooms and the nature of the magic. This will also let the death characters to have some impact to the story. I actually don’t mind if it was a duology or a longer standalone as I feel there are a lot of things unresolved and the ending was really rushed. A lot of things happened that some events didn’t quite land the emotional impact but overall, it’s a pleasant surprise that will stick with me or a while!

In this Japanese folklore-inspired YA fantasy for fans of The Hunger Games, a lowly young woman with a monstrous secret competes to become empress.

Each generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoku. The rules are simple. Survive the palace’s enchanted seasonal rooms. Conquer Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Marry the prince. All are eligible to compete–all except yōkai, supernatural monsters and spirits whom the human emperor is determined to enslave and destroy.

Mari has spent a lifetime training to become empress. Winning should be easy. And it would be, if she weren’t hiding a dangerous secret. Mari is a yōkai with the ability to transform into a terrifying monster. If discovered, her life will be forfeit. As she struggles to keep her true identity hidden, Mari’s fate collides with that of Taro, the prince who has no desire to inherit the imperial throne, and Akira, a half-human, half-yōkai outcast.

Torn between duty and love, loyalty and betrayal, vengeance and forgiveness, the choices of Mari, Taro, and Akira will decide the fate of Honoku…

7 thoughts on “Mini Reviews #24: March 2022 Reads

  1. I really enjoyed With the Fire on High as well, I read it in book form and really loved the characters, the themes however like yourself, I didn’t really care much for the romance. Other than that though I really loved the book! Ah I’ve been meaning to read Empress of all Seasons for years, I started it then put it down because I was hitting a slump. Still need to get back to it, you may just have convinced me to pick it up sooner tho!


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