Blog Tour: 3 Reasons to Read Oasis by Katya de Becerra

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Title: Oasis | Author: Katya de Becerra | SeriesLoveboat, Taipei #1 | Age: Young Adult | Genre: Science Fiction | Publication Date: January 7, 2020 | LinksAdd on Goodreads • Purchase on *Book Depository

*Artsy Draft receives a small commission for any purchases made through the link above.

—.:* 1. A thrilling YA Sci-Fi featuring a protagonist with passion for archaeology.

I don’t know about you, but I’m always a sucker when it comes to a story that feature a strong-will and passionate main lead. In Oasis, we follow the story of Alif and her deep interest in archaeology, something that she finally got to explore along with her friends.

—.:* 2. Fun squad stays together and grows even stronger.

Becerra’s Oasis featured a group of friends consisted of Alif Scholl and her four best friends, Lori Bradford, Minh Quoc, Luke Stokowski, and Rowen Syme Jr. It was exciting to see the dynamic of this group, and of course, their efforts to survive and beat the sand storm.

—.:* 3. Pitched as a thought-provoking story, Oasis let you do the interpretation.

An open ending is probably not the most famous option to end a sci-fi story, especially since usually people demanded for answers and reasons. While some might despise this decision, others might enjoy them just as much.

Trigger warning: Death by impalement, human bones, mentions of artifact theft and trafficking/smuggling, hospitalization, medical procedure (IV drip), seizures (observed, not experienced), fear of drinking poisoned water.

—.:* About the Author

Katya de Becerra was born in Russia, studied in California, lived in Peru, and then stayed in Australia long enough to become a local. She was going to be an Egyptologist when she grew up, but instead she earned a PhD in Anthropology and now works as a university lecturer and a researcher. Katya is a short version of her real name, which is very long and gets mispronounced a lot. What The Woods Keep was her first novel (out now), which is followed by another standalone Oasis in 2020. She has also authored and co-authored academic articles, book chapters, guest posts and opinion pieces.

Website // Twitter // Goodreads // Instagram

—.:* Tour Schedule

Are you thinking about adding Oasis to your next reading list?

Blog Tour: Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen + INTL Giveaway + Wallpaper

Title: Loveboat, Taipei | Author: Abigail Hing Wen | SeriesLoveboat, Taipei #1 | Age: Young Adult | Genre: Contemporary, Romance | Publication Date: January 7, 2020 | Trigger Warning: N/A | LinksAdd on Goodreads • Purchase on *Book Depository

*Artsy Draft receives a small commission for any purchases made through the link above.

—.:* Quick Recap!

☆ This book is aboutEver Wong and her journey in a summer camp in Taiwan, where she’s not only embracing her culture but also her true self. 
☆ Read this book if you’re a fan of a fast-paced and intertwining love story and looking for a great cultural representative of Asian families. 
☆ You might want to consider it because certain scenes were rushed which made the story feels jumpy.

—.:* More Thoughts!

Loveboat, Taipei is one of my most anticipated releases, and although it was enjoyable, sadly, it’s just not what I was quite expected. I’m going to start with the aspect that I liked the most about this book, which is the cultural representation. I’m not Chinese, but these representations are also applicable in other Asia countries and they’re described greatly. I’m fortunate enough to come from a family that’s not as strict as Ever’s, but it doesn’t mean that the expectation isn’t there. The comparison to other kids, the subtle hints and hopes for better grades, better schools, better jobs, I went through it all. And as someone who has similar experiences with Ever, I understand that it’s not something that one could just fight back easily. Especially since it’s happened for years ever since a young age, that it becomes normalized in our mind and seen as the default way to do everything in life.

My parents would slit their throats for my happiness, and in return, my future is their future.

Moving on, I truly enjoyed Ever’s journey in the camp and her first impression of witnessing her culture as something majorly celebrated. The description of Taiwan, from the boba trend to the more extreme side like snake-sake, was narrated wonderfully. I also had a great time peeking through all of the amazing classes that camp held. (Can I visit this place, pretty please?) And of course, Ever’s passion for dancing was a complete delight to witness!

However, a few things restrain my ride in following Ever’s journey. One thing that mainly bothered me throughout the whole story was the rushing in scenes. Sometimes, I couldn’t imagine how a certain scene looks like because the description was overlapped one after another. I also had trouble to engage with the side characters. Because although they were fun, the issue was there were simply too many of them. I struggled to memorize their names, let alone memorize their roles in this story.

Seven thousand miles away, their invisible hands are still tight around my life.

My last issue is clearly a matter of subjectivity, but I’m not invested in the love triangle’s trope. Though I can see that my younger self will enjoy this plot a lot more than my current self.

In conclusion, Loveboat, Taipei was a delightful debut with extraordinary representatives. If you’re looking for not just a fun coming-of-age journey, but also a mission of cultural embracement and self-finding, with a stir of drama and twisted friendship, then be sure to add this book to your next reading list!

—.:* The Verdict!

Thank you to the author for providing me with a review copy for joining #LoveboatTaipeiBlogTour in exchange for an honest review. The quotes above were taken from an advanced review copy and are subject to change upon publication. 

—.:* About the Author

Abigail Hing Wen is a Silicon Valley venture lawyer working with AI startups. She is a Vermont College of Fine Arts graduate, Wild Things blogger, and YA writer of her debut, Loveboat, Taipei. Find her onWebsite | Twitter

—.:* Free Wallpaper!

For my stop today, I’m excited to share a wallpaper which based on Eve’s passion for dancing in Loveboat, Taipei! The color scheme is neon red-purple which reminds me of the nightlife on Taiwan’s street!

—.:* INTL Giveaway!

Enter here to win a copy of Loveboat, Taipei! This giveaway is sponsored by HarperCollins International. It opens internationally and ends on January 16, 2020.

Are you thinking about adding Loveboat, Taipei to your next reading list?

Blog Tour: The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang

Better to die sharp in war than rust through a time of peace.

41886271The Sword of Kaigen
by M.L. Wang

A mother struggling to repress her violent past,
A son struggling to grasp his violent future,
A father blind to the danger that threatens them all.

When the winds of war reach their peninsula, will the Matsuda family have the strength to defend their empire? Or will they tear each other apart before the true enemies even reach their shores?

High on a mountainside at the edge of the Kaigenese Empire live the most powerful warriors in the world, superhumans capable of raising the sea and wielding blades of ice. For hundreds of years, the fighters of the Kusanagi Peninsula have held the Empire’s enemies at bay, earning their frozen spit of land the name ‘The Sword of Kaigen.’

Born into Kusanagi’s legendary Matsuda family, fourteen-year-old Mamoru has always known his purpose: to master his family’s fighting techniques and defend his homeland. But when an outsider arrives and pulls back the curtain on Kaigen’s alleged age of peace, Mamoru realizes that he might not have much time to become the fighter he was bred to be. Worse, the empire he was bred to defend may stand on a foundation of lies.

Misaki told herself that she left the passions of her youth behind when she married into the Matsuda house. Determined to be a good housewife and mother, she hid away her sword, along with everything from her days as a fighter in a faraway country. But with her growing son asking questions about the outside world, the threat of an impending invasion looming across the sea, and her frigid husband grating on her nerves, Misaki finds the fighter in her clawing its way back to the surface.

 
Thank you to the author for providing me with a review copy for joining #TheSwordofKaigenBlogTour in exchange for an honest review.

Title: The Sword of Kaigen | Series: Theonite | Author: M.L. Wang | Genre: High Fantasy | Publication Date: February 19, 2019 | Purchase Links: AmazonBook Depository

Trigger Warning: Abuse, extreme war, graphic scenes, miscarriage, rape, suicide, violence.

I’d say that my experience in reading self-published books isn’t a lot. I only read two self-published books this year, well, three now, including this one. These three self-published titles are coming from different genres, hence the reason why it wouldn’t be fair for me to rank them. Not to mention that The Sword of Kaigen is also my first adult high fantasy book, a territory that I’ve never tasted before. However, it’s safe to say that my reading experience with this book was completely out of the world. I’m so invested in every mentioned aspect that it left a special mark in my heart. Since we’re almost reaching the end of the year, I guess it wouldn’t be a bold move from me to state that The Sword of Kaigen is my favorite 2019 release, thanks to Petrik and his recommendation to me for joining Karina’s #TheSwordofKaigenBlogTour.

You learn over time that the world isn’t broken. It’s just… got more pieces to it than you thought. They all fit together, just maybe not the way you pictured when you were young.

As I previously mentioned, this is my first attempt in reading adult high fantasy. I guess the main reason why I’ve been avoiding this genre for so long is the fear that I wouldn’t be able to fully grasp the wonderful, rich universe that the author has been created through many hard works, researches, and sacrifices. I understand that not every books are suitable for everyone, but if I’m confident that I’m the one to blame for not enjoying a certain story, then I’d opt-out rather than insist myself to keep reading and leaving a one-star rating at the end. Fortunately, I finally decided to give this intimidating genre a try by reading Wang’s incredible epic tale, because reading this book turns out to be one of the best reading experiences that I’ve ever had in my life. I had no expectation when I started reading this Japanese-inspired fantasy, let me tell you. Although many praises around this book allured me to get closer and closer like the tempt of the first sip of hot coffee on a cold day, I was more than aware that I’m getting myself into something that’s not just unfamiliar, but also completely new. And much like that first sip of hot coffee, it turns out to be better than I’ve ever imagined.
 
How can I describe the greatness of this masterpiece in words? The Sword of Kaigen was wonderful in every single aspect. The universe was highly-detailed and well-built, that even for someone as amateur as I am, it’s obvious that Wang spent a tremendous amount of effort and time in doing research to develop this universe and wrap it into a beautiful bundle of not just a story, but a vivid experience to deliver to her readers. The plot was intense, thrilling, and always over the edge no matter which chapters that you’re reading. The characters were remarkable and their growths, perspectives, and arcs were always exciting to follow. I wouldn’t call this as a fast-paced story, yet not for a single second I’ve ever thought that the story was dragging or too slow because even on those slower, calmer scenes, I was truly invested and enjoyed how everything unfolds, whether it’s a piece of historical information, a backstory of certain character or incident, or even a more relatable, daily conversational exchanges that involved side characters.

Related Post: M.L. Wang on Writing Fighting Scenes

I’ve never needed a sword to protect you—to raise you the way your father wanted. Caring for my family meant putting away the fighter, so I did.

And let me tell you a little bit more about this wonderful world of Kaiganese. It was a rich and very well-written universe where you’ll need to learn how everything works, even to the most basic thing. Yet, the gradual process of how Wang introduced us to this universe was spectacular. There was no information dump at all, and instead, Wang let us into her crafted world a little by little, pages by pages, and familiarize us with how things work in Planet Duna, from how the elemental magic works, not only on adults but also how it appeared on babies and toddlers, the origin of the strong houses, their inherited famous power and their secret weapon, to the history of unfortunate incidents and wars, everything was revealed marvelously. And although this is a work of fiction, there’s a sense of familiarity with today’s modernity and the real world that we’re living in. This time’s ambiguity was one of the aspects that attracted me the most. It was obvious that this story took place during an old era of Japan, yet there was a mention of modern techs like airplanes and cellphones. It’s similar to how a horror movie, It Follows (2014), delivered a confusing timeline by both showing us vintage home decors paired with an advanced e-reader tech, or how a person’s swimming at their backyard during a cold season. And sure, this comparison might be not the best that I could come up with, but the similarity between The Sword of Kaigen and It Follows lies on the creation its own alternate universe that yes, might unsettle you for a bit, but you can’t deny that it’s a genius move to reduce error and misinformation.

Related Post: Worldbuilding Between the Lines: A Close-Reading of the Propaganda in The Sword of Kaigen

It had never properly occurred to her before that moment, but perhaps the thing she found most attractive in men had never been power. It had never been danger. It was bravery.

Lastly, how could I politely scream about these extraordinary characters? Started with Matsuda Mamoru who’s at the age of adolescence, was already beyond smart, observant, responsible, and yet still have a part that’s willing to receive the bitter truth about the world that he always thought he knew, although the process itself was definitely hard for him. And I was completely starstruck with a new favorite heroine of mine, Matsuda Misaki. Her fierce past mixed with her mournful current with an addition of her hopeful future was an outstanding character’s development. I was always excited to follow the storylines of every mentioned character in this book, but Misaki’s storyline was thoroughly standout and thrilling. Her closure with her past was also one of the moments that made me all emotional because although it was not perfect, it was there. She deserved so much more but a closure might be the one that she truly needed. Also, I couldn’t praise Wang enough for her excellent writing of such wide-range characters. From the innocent Mamoru to the complex Misaki, the cold Takeru and warm Takashi, and of course, the confident Setsuko and the gentle Hyori. I enjoyed the appearance of every single one of them. The fact that their existence contributed a lot to the growth of Mamoru and Misaki and not just for the sake of keeping the main characters accompanied, was another brilliant execution from Wang.

It was the teeth of winter. It was poetry. It was God in water.

The Sword of Kaigen is a story of loss and survival, an endless running from an inescapable past and an ache of finding the truth for unanswered questions. The solid worldbuilding combines with dirty political intrigue, with the addition of fighting scenes that you’ve never seen before, makes this book irresistible and too outstanding to be missed.

what’s the verdict?

reading thread

about the author

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M. L. Wang was born in Wisconsin in 1992, decided she wanted to be an author at the age of nine, and never grew up. She got her Bachelor of Arts in history in 2015 and currently works at a martial arts school in her home city of Madison.
 
When she isn’t building worlds on the page, she builds them in her aquarium full of small, smart fish that love to explore castles and don’t make noise during writing time.
 
Find her on: Website | Twitter | Instagram

what did others say about this book?

  • Caitlin @ Caitlin Althea said: “The fight scenes in The Sword of Kaigen call to mind anime battles, and if you know anything about anime battles, you know they’re epic.”
  • El @ Papertea & Bookflowers said: “I loved the way M.L. Wang used history and the way it was taught in this story. I always love when political schemes and manipulation are woven into a story and here it was masterfully done.”
  • Petrik @ Novel Notions said: “In my list of brilliant and favorite self-published books, The Sword of Kaigen stands tall at the top of the mountain and I honestly have no idea when or if another self-published novel will steal its rightful spot.”

enjoy the review? pin it!

tour schedule

Click here to read the introductory post on Karina’s blog and find out more exciting details about this tour! In the meantime, here’s the schedule for the tour:

fun quiz to try if you’ve read the sword of kaigen

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giveaway

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What’s your favorite high fantasy book? Are you thinking about adding The Sword of Kaigen to your next reading list?

Blog Tour: Sisters of Shadow and Light by Sara B. Larson

The night my sister was born, the stars died and were reborn in her eyes.

Sisters of Shadow and Light (Sisters of Shadow and Light, #1)Sisters of Shadow and Light
by Sara B. Larson

Zuhra and Inara have grown up in the Citadel of the Paladins, an abandoned fortress where legendary, magical warriors once lived before disappearing from the world―including their Paladin father the night Inara was born.

On that same night, a massive, magical hedge grew and imprisoned them within the citadel. Inara inherited their father’s Paladin power; her eyes glow blue and she is able to make plants grow at unbelievable rates, but she has been trapped in her own mind because of a “roar” that drowns everything else out―leaving Zuhra virtually alone with their emotionally broken human mother.

For fifteen years they have lived, trapped in the citadel, with little contact from the outside world…until the day a stranger passes through the hedge, and everything changes.

 
Thank you Tor Teen & The FFBC for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Title: Sisters of Shadow and Light | Series: Sisters of Shadow and Light, #1 | Author: Sara B. Larson | Genre: FantasyYoung Adult | Publication Date: November 5, 2019 | Purchase Links: AmazonBook Depository

Trigger Warning: Graphic scenes, parental abuse.

what is it about?

The story follows Zuhra and Inara, two sisters who lived in an abandoned castle along with their mother and their housemaid, Sami. But it wasn’t just any castle, rather it was an old Paladin’s palace. Paladin was a magical warrior and they used to live among the human and protect them from vicious monsters, Rakasa, until the king demanded all of the Paladin to be executed in accusation of trying to take over the kingdom and rule the human. Zuhra and Inara’s father was happened to be one of them, and he disappeared on the night of Inara’s birth, leaving his family behind protected by sentient hedges that separated them from the villagers. Inara inherited his power as a Paladin, yet sadly, she had no control over it. For fifteen years, Zuhra lived under the same roof with an emotionally broken mother while protected her little sister from her unstable state. Until one day, a young scholar managed to cross the hedge and their life was about to change forever.

what do I think about it?

I’ve been really into sisterhood stories lately, and after I read the first sentence of the synopsis (which I quoted above), I knew that I need to read this one immediately. Sisters of Shadow and Light was completely blown me away. I adore its unique magic system and how rich worldbuilding was, along with the intense storyline and dynamic characters. 

I was a catalclysm of emotions, all crowding each other inside the too-small confines of my mind.

Although Larson didn’t immediately introduce us to how the magic works in this universe and instead, delivered the information bits by bits, I was just fully hooked, still. Now thinking about it, I actually appreciated how Larson executed this. Rather than dumping two pages full of information about the history of Paladin, how the magic works, what happened between Paladin and human, she ‘d show us all about it through the eyes and experiences of the characters rather than tell us narratively, which makes the progress of exploring this universe became more intriguing.

As long as you’re breathing there is always hope…Let them drown you or let them drive you. It’s your choice.

Starting with how Zuhra and Inara lived in an abandoned yet mystical Citadel, I immediately absorbed into the story. There will always be something magical about an old castle (ahem, Hogwarts?! Any Potterhead in the house?) that will eternally amaze me. The fairy tale vibes yet also spooky feelings around it was a nice sensation that pulls me more and more within the deep of this fantasy. As the story went further, the magic system keeps amazed me. But one thing that left me all smiley was the chemistry between Paladin and their magical pet, the Gryphon. I will always support the concept of how the animal/creature choosing you and no one can tell me otherwise!

But she was my sister, and I loved her. And there was nothing I wouldn’t do to protect her. No matter what.

Now, of course I can’t wrap up this review without mentioning the sisterhood bond between Zuhra and Inara. Larson really sets the bar high by delivering such a strong siblings relationship. You can truly feel their emotions through the paper and how deep their love for each other. Their willingness to risk everything, even themselves, to protect and save each other, truly touched me in the best way possible. And although Larson successfully delivered such a dynamic between Zuhra and Inara, she was not forgetting the arcs of other characters. The heartbreaking truth about Zuhra and Inara’s parents, the bitter backstory of Sami, and even the backstories of other side characters such as Halvor, Raidyn, the grandparents, was done wonderfully.
 
Yet, you might be wondering, why’d I end up with a four-star rating after such praises? And the answer is, sadly, it was a struggle for me to engage in this universe of Zuhra and Inara at first. Although it was beautifully written and all, the first 20% of this book left me dragging. I had no idea about what was happening and completely lost, just like how Zuhra feel about her lack of knowledge about her heritage. Regardless, I’m glad that I decided to keep reading because I ended up enjoying everything that Larson delivered, especially the strong sisterhood bond between Zuhra and Inara which became the highlight of this mesmerizing fantasy tale.

what’s the verdict?

about the author

 
Sara B. Larson is the best-selling and critically acclaimed author of the YA fantasy DEFY trilogy (DEFY, IGNITE, and ENDURE) and the DARK BREAKS THE DAWN duology. Her next YA fantasy, SISTERS OF SHADOW AND LIGHT, comes out November 5th from Tor Teen. She can’t remember a time when she didn’t write books—although she now uses a computer instead of a Little Mermaid notebook. Sara lives in Utah with her husband, their four children, and their Maltese, Loki. She writes in brief snippets throughout the day and the quiet hours when most people are sleeping. Her husband claims she should have a degree in “the art of multitasking.” When she’s not mothering or writing, you can often find her at the gym repenting for her sugar addiction.

enjoy the review? pin it!

tour schedule

giveaway

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What’s your favorite sisterhood book? Are you thinking about adding Sisters of Shadow and Light into your next reading list?

Monthly Wrap-Up: September & October 2019

Hi everyone! Let’s start the new month with a double wrap-up! 😬 I know, I know. I feel a bit guilty about this because last month I haven’t got time to do my wrap-up in time, so I decided to just combine my wrap-ups for the month of September and October. But aside from that, I actually had pretty good reading months, since I’ve discovered a few favorites from these past two months!

what i read

five-star (★★★★★)

📑 Beyond the Black Door by A. M. StricklandReview • I love the concept of this dark fantasy! But be aware of the trigger warnings before you decided to dive into this one!
📑 Fireborne by Rosaria MundaReview • Found family, political intrigues, and fierce competitions featuring dragons! I’m completely SOLD and Munda is my new fave author.
📑 Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell & Faith Erin HicksReview • This graphic novel will be my go-to autumn read from now on and no one can tell me otherwise.
📑 The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole DavisReview • This book is far from my comfort zone so that should tell you a lot if I rated it a five-star.
📑 The Light at the Bottom of the World by London ShahReview • I’ve been longing for a good dystopian story and Shah’s debut is my greatest find this year.

four-star (★★★★)

📑 Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte • You have no idea how disappointed I was when I found out that it’s a standalone and not a part of a series.
📑 Frankly in Love by David Yoon • Frankly in love with this book and I can’t wait for the sequel!
📑 I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz RishiReviewAuthor Interview • I love this book and this author with all my heart.
📑 Loss Adjustment by Linda CollinsReview • One of my most heartbreaking read from this year. A memoir featuring the story of how Linda lost her daughter in a suicide incident.
📑 The Never Tilting World by Rin ChupecoReview • This is my first time to read Chupeco’s book and I’m ready to read more!
📑 Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson • I’m in a big fat mood for witchy reads in the last couple months and this one was so much fun, especially that I buddy read it with everyone on Dragons & Tea Book Club!

three-star (★★★)

📑 A Different Time by Michael K. HillReview • I’m loving the pitch of this book but I can totally see its huge potential if the pages were longer and the characters were dug deeper.
📑 Kingdom of Souls by Rena BarronReview • I adore the intricate universe of this book so much! However, I’d love to try reading it again because I knew this is a case of my clown a** for having difficulty to engage with the whole story.
📑 Resurrection Girls by Ava MorgynReview • The incorporation of magical realism in this contemporary didn’t impress me that much.
📑 Scary Stories Series • Most of these stories weren’t even scary but props to André Øvredal for adapting it into a pretty scary movie!
📑 Six Goodbyes We Never Said by Candace GangerReview • This book explored many important issues but unfortunately, I have so many unanswered questions about the characters.
📑 The Infinite Noise by Lauren ShippenReview • I’m a big fan of the podcast but the book wasn’t as great as what I was expected.

two-star (★★)

📑 Bury the Lede by Gaby Dunn • Unfortunately, aside from its brilliant and incredibly graphic artworks with no holding back and an excellent queer rep, I couldn’t relate to the characters nor the plot.
📑 Permanent Record by Mary H. K. Choi • It seems like Choi’s books aren’t really for me after I previously DNFed Emergency Contact.

one-star (★)

None. YAY!

TOTAL BOOKS I READ IN 2019 SO FAR: 82 BOOKS

your turn! how’s last month going for you?