Blog Tour Review: The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities by Rick Riordan

Hello, friends! I’m thrilled to be taking part in my first blog tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours for The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities: New Stories about Mythic Heroes by Rick Riordan, Carlos Hernandez, Roshani Chkoshi, J.C. Cervantes, Yoon Ha Lee, Kwame Mbalia, Rebecca Roanhorse, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Sarwat Chadda and Graci Kim.

Don’t forget to enter the GIVEAWAY (US only, sorry international friends)—details are at the end of my post, and don’t forget to check out the other blogs on tour in the schedule posted after my thoughts!

Special thanks to Rick Riordan Presents for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities
Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents
Publish Date: 28 September 2021
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents ten new stories–including one of his own–about beloved heroes that sprang from the imaginations of some of the best middle grade authors working today.

A cave monster . . . an abandoned demon . . . a ghost who wants to erase history . . . a killer commandant . . . These are just some of the challenges confronting the young heroes in this highly entertaining anthology.

All but one of the heroes previously starred in a popular book from Rick Riordan Presents. You”ll be reunited with Aru Shah, Zane Obispo, Min the fox spirit, Sal and Gabi, Tristan Strong, Nizhoni Begay, Paola Santiago, Sikander Aziz, and Riley Oh. Who is the new hero? Read Rick Riordan”s short story to find out!

Ten bestselling and award-winning middle grade authors contributed to this collection: Roshani Chokshi, J.C. Cervantes, Yoon Ha Lee, Carlos Hernandez, Kwame Mbalia, Rebecca Roanhorse, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Sarwat Chadda, Graci Kim, and Rick Riordan, who also served as the editor.

The cultures represented by these own-voices stories are: Indian, Mesoamerican, Korean, Cuban, Black American, African, Navajo, Mexican, Mesopotamian, and Celtic.

There’s something for everyone in this collection of fast-paced and funny adventure stories that show what it takes to be a hero in any time, setting, and universe.

GET A COPY:

Click on the author names to be taken to their websites!

TL;DR: For readers who are new to the worlds found in Rick Riordan Presents books, this will give you a wonderful taste of what lies in store when you finally dive into them head first! For those who are returning, these stories will take you on fun (mis)adventures with some of your favourite characters from your favourite stories! This was such a fun collection full of magic and it’s rich in diversity and cultural representation! Highly recommended for all readers but especially those who love action-packed (mis)adventures, an abundance of magic, diverse mythology, most likely demons and ghouls, and lots of cheeky and witty humour! 😊

I was completely immersed from the moment I set foot into this Multiverse Mansion and I was itching with eagerness to open each door to the different worlds held within. These stories are rich with diverse cultures and a wild kind of magic courses through each of the pages that hold you enthralled as the characters and their stories unfold. Honestly, these are the kind of stories that I wish had been available to younger me because it would’ve meant so much to see parts of myself in characters who look like me and have roots in parts of the world I’m from. Not to mention that it would’ve been amazing to learn about the different mythologies, too! Luckily, they’re stories that adult me can read and greatly appreciate and it makes me so happy knowing that such diverse heroic tales are available for younger generations to read and identify with!

We get small glimpses into magnificent worlds and we meet many new characters that I was eager to learn more about the minute their story ended. What makes me love a short story is when the story comes full circle, the questions are answered and it can essentially stand on its own, and the majority of stories in here did that! I often found myself going into deep(ish) dives on the interwebs to read up about the mythologies and creatures and I love when a story can pique my curiosity in that way because it makes the experience that much more unforgettable. While I enjoyed all of the stories my top three are: The Demon Drum by Rebecca Roanhorse, My Night at the Gifted Carnival by Graci Kim, and… it’s a tie between The Initiation by Yoon Ha Lee and Bruto and the Freaky Flower by Tehlor Kay Mejia (sorry, I really can’t choose)! 😜

Although I had only met the characters from one of the stories in this collection (Gum Baby forever!), I had no trouble following along with the adventures, so it’s okay to go into this without prior knowledge of the stories. I think it would be perfect for readers who want to get a taste of the worlds found in the Rick Riordan Presents books and I can guarantee that it will leave you wanting more as soon as possible!

3 WINNERS (US ONLY) WILL WIN A FINISHED COPY OF THE CURSED CARNIVAL AND OTHER CALAMITIES!

Tour Schedule

Week One:

9/1/2021YA Books CentralExcerpt
9/2/2021Kait Plus BooksExcerpt
9/3/2021Rajiv’s ReviewsReview
9/4/2021@CurlygrannylovestoreadReview

Week Two:

9/5/2021#BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee BlogReview
9/6/2021A Dream Within A DreamReview
9/7/2021Nonbinary Knight ReadsReview
9/8/2021The Bookwyrm’s DenReview
9/9/2021Log Cabin LibraryReview
9/10/2021Lifestyle of MeReview
9/11/2021Emelie’s BooksReview

Week Three:

9/12/2021@pagesofyellowReview
9/13/2021Locks, Hooks and BooksReview
9/14/2021More Books Please blogReview
9/15/2021Little Red ReadsReview
9/16/2021Don’t Judge, ReadReview
9/17/2021Fyrekatz BlogReview
9/18/2021booksaremagictooReview

Week Four:

9/19/2021The Phantom ParagrapherReview
9/20/2021BookHounds YAExcerpt
9/21/2021Cindy’s Love of BooksReview
9/22/2021dinipandareadsReview
9/23/2021hauntedbybooksReview
9/24/2021Books a Plenty Book ReviewsReview
9/25/2021Books and Zebras @jypsylynnReview

Week Five:

9/26/2021The Momma SpotReview
9/27/2021Zainey LaneyReview
9/28/2021@fictitious.foxReview
9/29/2021Two Points of InterestReview
9/30/2021PopTheButterfly ReadsReview

Have you read The Curse Carnival and Other Calamities or is it on your TBR?

Blog Tour Review: It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi

Today is my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi.
Special thanks to HarperCollins Children’s Books for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Be sure to click on the banner above to check out the rest of the amazing bloggers on tour!

Goodreads: It All Comes Back to You
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Publication Date: 14 September 2021
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Coming-of-Age

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

After Kiran Noorani’s mom died, Kiran vowed to keep her dad and sister, Amira, close. Then out of the blue, Amira announces that she’s dating someone and might move cross-country with him. Kiran is thrown.

Deen Malik is thrilled that his older brother, Faisal, has found a great girlfriend, even if it’s getting serious quickly. Maybe now their parents’ focus will shift off Deen, who feels intense pressure to be the perfect son.

When Deen and Kiran come fact to face, they silently agree to keep their past a secret. Four years ago–before Amira and Faisal met–Kiran and Deen dated. But Deen ghosted Kiran with no explanation. Kiran will stop at nothing to find out what happened, and Deen will do anything, even if it means sabotaging his brother’s relationship, to keep her from reaching the truth. Though the chemistry between Kiran and Deen is undeniable, can either of them take down their walls?

Continue reading “Blog Tour Review: It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi”

ARC Review: With You Forever by Chloe Liese

Special thanks to the author for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: With You Forever (Bergman Brothers #4)
Publication date: 14 September 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)


Axel
Rooney Sullivan is sunshine incarnate. Warm, bright, always smiling, she’s everything I’m not and the last person I have any business desiring. Desperate to hide a hopeless attraction, I’ve done everything possible to keep my distance…until a charades game gone wrong brought that to a grinding halt. 

Since then, steering clear of Rooney has been impossible. In a matter of months, she’s kissed me speechless, commandeered my art career, and infiltrated not only my dreams but my home. The woman who was once avoidable has become the last thing I needed: temptingly within reach.
 
Rooney
Axel Bergman is a gorgeous grump who doesn’t have the time of day for me. Thankfully, I’ve kept my crush under wraps…well, until I kissed him. Charades got away from me, okay? It was an accident! I haven’t seen him since, which is for the best. My life is a mess, and the last thing I need is to embarrass myself further with the man who avoids me like that’s his job rather than painting modern masterpieces.
 
It seems the universe, however, has a different plan. When Axel and I unexpectedly find our paths—and problems—converging, a marriage of convenience proves the perfect solution. At least, until I’m facing my most serious problem yet: a once-loveless marriage of convenience that’s inconveniently become a love match, after all.

THIS BOOK IS OUT IN TWO DAYS!
PRE-ORDER NOW:

Continue reading “ARC Review: With You Forever by Chloe Liese”

ARC Review: Ever After Always by Chloe Liese

Special thanks to Chloe Liese for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

🥳 Happy Book Birthday to Ever After Always! 🥳

Ever After Always (Bergman Brothers #3)
Publication date: 12 January 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)


Buckle up for an emotional journey of hijinks, heartache, and a hot slow-burn in this marriage-in-crisis romance about going the distance to make love last.

Aiden
I’ve spent twelve years loving Freya Bergman and twelve lifetimes won’t be enough to give her everything she deserves. She’s my passionate, tender-hearted wife, my best friend, and all I want is to make her happy. But the one thing that will make her happiest is the one thing I’m not sure I can give her: a baby. With the pressure of providing and planning for a family, my anxiety’s at an all-time high, and I find myself pulling away, terrified to tell my wife how I’m struggling. But when Freya kicks me out, I realize that pulling back has turned into pushing too far. Now it’s the fight of a lifetime to save our marriage.

Freya
I love my cautious, hard-working husband. He’s my partner and best friend, the person I know I can count on most. Until one day I realize the man I married is nowhere to be found. Now Aiden is quiet and withdrawn, and as the months wear on, the pain of our growing distance becomes too much.  As if weathering marriage counseling wasn’t enough, we’re thrown together for an island getaway to celebrate my parents’ many years of perfect marriage while ours is on the brink of collapse. Despite my meddling siblings and a week in each other’s constant company, this trip somehow gets us working through the trouble in paradise. I just can’t help worrying, when we leave paradise and return to the real world, will trouble find us again?

GET YOUR COPY: Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK)

Continue reading “ARC Review: Ever After Always by Chloe Liese”

Blog Tour Review: His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie

I’m back with another Algonquin blog tour and this time it’s for this gem of a debut: His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie. Thanks to NetGalley and Algonquin Books for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Goodreads: His Only Wife
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: 01 September 2020
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, African Literature
Panda Rating:

Afi Tekple is a young seamstress whose life is narrowing rapidly. She lives in a small town in Ghana with her widowed mother, spending much of her time in her uncle Pious’s house with his many wives and children. Then one day she is offered a life-changing opportunity—a proposal of marriage from the wealthy family of Elikem Ganyo, a man she doesn’t truly know. She acquiesces, but soon realizes that Elikem is not quite the catch he seemed. He sends a stand-in to his own wedding, and only weeks after Afi is married and installed in a plush apartment in the capital city of Accra does she meet her new husband. It turns out that he is in love with another woman, whom his family disapproves of; Afi is supposed to win him back on their behalf. But it is Accra that eventually wins Afi’s heart and gives her a life of independence that she never could have imagined for herself.

A brilliant scholar and a fierce advocate for women’s rights, author Peace Adzo Medie infuses her debut novel with intelligence and humor. For readers of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Candice Carty-Williams, His Only Wife is the story of an indomitable and relatable heroine that illuminates what it means to be a woman in a rapidly changing world.

Continue reading “Blog Tour Review: His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie”

Blog Tour Review: The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

I’m so honoured and excited to share my review today as part of the book blog tour for The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed. Special thanks to Shivani at Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing for reaching out and asking if I’d like to be part of their tour for this incredible book. Thanks to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Goodreads: The Black Kids
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: 04 August 2020
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Historical Fiction, Coming-of-Age
Panda Rating:

Perfect for fans of The Hate U Give, this unforgettable coming-of-age debut novel explores issues of race, class, and violence through the eyes of a wealthy black teenager whose family gets caught in the vortex of the 1992 Rodney King Riots.

Los Angeles, 1992
Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.

Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.

With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?

Buy: Publisher | Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Book Depository

Continue reading “Blog Tour Review: The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed”

ARC Review: Always Only You by Chloe Liese

Thanks to author Chloe Liese for providing the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Always Only You (Bergman Brothers #2)
Publication date: 04 August 2020
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Sports Romance

Panda Rating:



Ren
The moment I met her, I knew Frankie Zeferino was someone worth waiting for. Deadpan delivery, secret heart of gold, and a rare one-dimpled smile that makes my knees weak, Frankie has been forbidden since the day she and I became coworkers, meaning waiting has been the name of my game—besides, hockey, that is. I’m a player on the team, she’s on staff, and as long as we work together, dating is off-limits. But patience has always been my virtue. Frankie won’t be here forever—she’s headed for bigger, better things. I just hope that when she leaves the team and I tell her how I feel, she won’t want to leave me behind, too.

Frankie
I’ve had a problem at work since the day Ren Bergman joined the team: a six foot three hunk of happy with a sunshine smile. I’m a grumbly grump and his ridiculously good nature drives me nuts, but even I can’t entirely ignore that hot tamale of a ginger with icy eyes, the perfect playoff beard, and a body built for sin that he’s annoyingly modest about. Before I got wise, I would have tripped over myself to get a guy like Ren, but with my diagnosis, I’ve learned what I am to most people in my life—a problem, not a person. Now, opening my heart to anyone, no matter how sweet, is the last thing I’m prepared to do.

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK)

Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.

Continue reading “ARC Review: Always Only You by Chloe Liese”

Blog Tour Review: In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton

I’m back with another blog tour and this time it’s for In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton. Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for asking me to take part in it!

Thanks to NetGalley, Algonquin Young Readers for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review

Goodreads: In the Neighborhood of True
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: 07 July 2020 (PBK pub)
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction, Own Voices
Panda Rating:

A powerful story of love, identity, and the price of fitting in or speaking out.
After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York City to Atlanta—the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club.

Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple Ruth meets Max, who is serious and intense about the fight for social justice, and now she is caught between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes.

Continue reading “Blog Tour Review: In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton”

The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones Review and Favourite Quotes

Thanks to NetGalley, Wattpad Books and author Daven McQueen for providing the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones
Publisher: Wattpad Books
Release date: 16 June 2020
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction

Panda Rating:



It’s the summer of 1955. For Ethan Harper, a biracial kid raised mostly by his white father, race has always been a distant conversation. When he’s sent to spend the summer with his aunt and uncle in small-town Alabama, his Blackness is suddenly front and center, and no one is shy about making it known he’s not welcome there. Except for Juniper Jones. The town’s resident oddball and free spirit, she’s everything the townspeople aren’t―open, kind, and full of acceptance.

Armed with two bikes and an unlimited supply of root beer floats, Ethan and Juniper set out to find their place in a town that’s bent on rejecting them. As Ethan is confronted for the first time by what it means to be Black in America, Juniper tries to help him see the beauty in even the ugliest reality, and that even the darkest days can give rise to an invincible summer.

Amazon (US) | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo | IndieBound

Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.

“It is also, first and foremost, a story about race. It’s a story about the struggle that it was and is to be black in America. And because that is a hard thing, this story deals heavily with racism in the attitudes and languages of certain characters.”

Continue reading “The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones Review and Favourite Quotes”

Review: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Note: This review was originally posted on my Goodreads in January 2019.

Goodreads: Girls of Paper and Fire (Girls of Paper and Fire #1)
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, LGBTQ+
Panda Rating:


Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most demeaning. This year, there’s a ninth. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

2020 note: I was super excited to read this book because there was a helluva lot to be excited for and so I was pretty disappointed that I didn’t love it more. I know it’s a super unpopular opinion because everyone adored this book. So, JFYI, there’s an unpopular opinion coming right up! 😅 Also, soz it’s a bit of a chunky review!


I’m kind of torn on how I feel about this one. I was super excited to start reading it and while I did enjoy it— especially the world that the author created—I think the story just fell a bit flat for me. I’m feeling disappointed because I wanted to enjoy it so much more than I did. That said, with her debut, Natasha Ngan presents a wild fantasy that is not only rich in detail, but has a diverse and representative cast of characters and a very open narrative on sexuality and on sensitive issues such as abuse. There is action, politics, coverage of social issues such as discrimination and poverty, and there is also a blooming f/f romance. TW: violence and sexual abuse.

“We might be Paper Girls, easily torn and written upon. The very title we’re given suggests that we are blank, waiting to be filled. But what the Demon King and his court do not understand is that paper is flammable.

And there is a fire catching among us.”

We follow 17-year-old Lei as she is forcibly taken from her village to become an unprecedented ninth Paper Girl, where on her journey she discovers unexpected friendships and her first love, while also navigating the dark and harrowing experiences that come with being forced to be a consort to the Demon King.

Ngan stated that she wanted to tell a story that has diverse representation, one that more young readers can relate to, and I think she did a wonderful job delivering on that. Even though I’m not “young” anymore (lol), I thoroughly enjoyed reading a YA story that was so heavily influenced by Asian, specifically Chinese-Malaysian cultures, which also have many similarities to my own Indonesian culture. I found it refreshing to read a YA fantasy where I recognized words from my own native tongue and other familiar references from Asia in the text. I found that the cultural influences added an extra special element to the world building, which Ngan creates with a wonderfully bizarre fusion of human and animal forms, mixed with the rich spiritual beliefs and ritualistic practices from Asian cultures. Ngan’s writing offers such rich and vivid imagery that breathes life, not only into the characters, but into the surroundings, making it easy to picture exactly what’s being painted.

This was also the case when we encounter the ‘darker’ scenes in the story that involve abuse (sexual and physical). Although there was a CW/TW at the start, I honestly don’t think I’ve ever read a YA novel that’s as explicitly dark as this. If you’re okay with confronting and reading about these topics, then this book is suitable for you. Though I think that because Ngan is so open about it in her writing, it provides a good platform where young readers can gain an understanding, engage in discussions and explore these difficult issues in private or in safe spaces such as book clubs. Not only that, but I think the openness allows people to gain a sense of empowerment from the main character Lei—who ultimately chooses to not let what has happened to her define her life.

While Lei’s character was admirable in how she dealt with her situation, I have to admit that I didn’t really connect with her—which I think is perhaps the main reason why I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I expected to. Yes, she’s undoubtedly brave for having stood up to the Demon King, but I also felt that (ironically) her character was a little helpless and lacked strength. Her emotions and actions were so dependent on other characters pulling her through and what I found really frustrating was that she would dive into these situations without any forethought into how it would affect others; especially if she failed, which she did almost every time. I know this is YA, and really, Ngan does a great job in capturing the internal coming-of-age struggles of a teenage girl and an even better job at capturing the struggles of a young woman discovering her sexuality. However, Lei’s character just didn’t latch on to me. In many ways, I see Lei as being so far from the typical ‘fierce, strong, warrior, self-saving heroine’ that YA fantasy is full of and this is definitely not a bad thing but for some reason she just didn’t work for me…

It was unfortunate that the majority of the Paper Girls and other characters experience little to no growth, save for one other Paper Girl, Aoki, who goes through just as much change as Lei. It was actually quite painful (in the best way) to see how Aoki’s character develops, especially in relation to Lei’s, and I can see her playing a much bigger and potentially more sinister role in the upcoming book(s). The next one is meant to come out towards the end of 2019 and Ngan will apparently make an announcement about the upcoming book’s title very soon. I personally hope that how I feel about Lei’s character improves or changes in the next book and that the pace of the story picks up a little bit. I felt the pacing was a bit slow for me at times and the climax I was anticipating towards the end, also didn’t hit that ‘satisfying’ spot for me.

But it really wasn’t all negative for me—even though maybe this review might make it seem so. I did enjoy this book, just not as much as I hoped to. That won’t stop me from picking up the next one though! I look forward to diving back into Ikhara and seeing where the story takes us next 🙂

Have you read Girls of Paper and Fire or is it on your TBR?