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?

The Henna Wars Blog Tour: Review and Favourite Quotes

Hi, friends! I’m so excited to be back with another The Fantastic Flying Book Club tour post today for The Henna Wars by Adiba Jagirdar! I really can’t believe I got picked for this blog tour because it’s a hot one that’s on a lot of TBRs, so I died a little bit inside out of pure happiness because it’s such a privilege to be chosen 🥰 Huge thanks to the FFBC for organising these amazing tours and to the authors for making the eARCs available to us.

Be sure to click on the banner above to see the other bloggers on tour! 😊

The Henna Wars
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Release date: 12 May 2020
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, LGBTQ+

Panda Rating:



When Dimple Met Rishi meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in this rom com about two teen girls with rival henna businesses.When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants—as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to hide who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her family. And her life only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life.

Flávia is beautiful and charismatic and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat choose to do henna, even though Flávia is appropriating Nishat’s culture. Amidst sabotage and school stress, their lives get more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush on Flávia, and realizes there might be more to her than she realized.

Amazon (US) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Google Play

Continue reading “The Henna Wars Blog Tour: Review and Favourite Quotes”

First Lines Friday -01 May

Happy Friday book lovers and happy May Day!! We’re back with another First Lines Friday, a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines? Here are the rules:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

First lines:

“It was raining the day Suki came to the Palace of the Sun, and it was raining the night that she died.”

Do you recognize the book these first lines come from?

Continue reading “First Lines Friday -01 May”

#WWWWednesday: 22 April

Holy wow, can someone tell me where April went to because it has seriously zoomed by! I can’t believe we’re just a few days from the last week of the month. I’m not ready for April to be over because I literally still have all the things to do and all the books to read!

Hello, hello and welcome back to another episode of WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be answering these questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

Well, we’re back to my reading taking a hit thanks to Animal Crossing (yes, still)! Although we’re quite late into the month of April and my reading game has been thrown completely off this month (because what are books even), I feel like I’m slowly coming off the AC high. I’m not trying to jinx myself but I can feel it. That said, I only managed to finish one book since last Wednesday and it was another blog tour read.

The Silence of Bones by June Hur ★★★★½
This book was so different and so much more than I thought it’d be in all the best ways. I’ve never read a YA historical fiction, murder mystery/thriller before and it was incredible. It’s a bit slow to start but once you get sucked in you can’t put this book down. I’d also never read about this Korean dynastic empire before but despite being clueless to it, Hur’s writing was so immersive and I could still picture it clearly. Loved the characters and the exploration of sociopolitical themes of the era. Did I mention that it’s also highly quotable? Loved it and would definitely recommend it! Check out my full review.

Continue reading “#WWWWednesday: 22 April”

The Silence of Bones Review and Favourite Quotes

Thanks to NetGalley, Feiwel & Friends, and author June Hur for providing the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Silence of Bones
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release date: 21 April 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery/Thriller

Panda Rating:



I have a mouth, but I mustn’t speak;
Ears, but I mustn’t hear;
Eyes, but I mustn’t see.


1800, Joseon (Korea). Homesick and orphaned sixteen-year-old Seol is living out the ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Indentured to the police bureau, she’s been tasked with assisting a well-respected young inspector with the investigation into the politically charged murder of a noblewoman.

As they delve deeper into the dead woman’s secrets, Seol forms an unlikely bond of friendship with the inspector. But her loyalty is tested when he becomes the prime suspect, and Seol may be the only one capable of discovering what truly happened on the night of the murder. But in a land where silence and obedience are valued above all else, curiosity can be deadly.

June Hur’s elegant and haunting debut The Silence of Bones is a bloody tale perfect for fans of Kerri Maniscalco and Renée Ahdieh.

Amazon (US) | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo | Google Books

Continue reading “The Silence of Bones Review and Favourite Quotes”

#WWWWednesday: 15 April

Hello, hello and welcome back to another episode of WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be answering these questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

Oh-em-goodness, can you believe?! Ya girl finished THREE books since last Wednesday! Although gaming is still taking up a lot of my waking hours outside of work, I’m chuffed that I can *finally* say I finished more than one book 😍 Happy tears for sure, fam!

They Went Left by Monica Hesse ★★★★★
This was a blog tour read and ugh, this book! This had me silently crying with tears constantly flowing down my face, punctuated by the occasional sob. It was so emotional and I don’t know what kinda crazy I was in thinking that a story on the aftermath of the Holocaust would be less emotional 🤦🏻‍♀️ I recommend it to those lovers of historical fiction set in this period and for masochists such as myself! Check out my full review.

Donut Disturb (Donut Disturb #1) by Melissa Williams ★★☆☆☆
After reading the above book, I needed something light and this one sounded perfect! Unfortunately… I felt like I was reading a half-finished novel. No mistake, this was a very light read because all the things concerning character and plot development happened off page. We were shown nothing and told everything. Plus, there were so many tenses (past/present) used in one paragraph it was frustrating because I felt like I was getting whiplash trying to follow the writing. The characters weren’t bad but I also just didn’t feel for any of them. This was definitely not a win! Review coming soon.

Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami ★★★½
This is another blog tour read and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t fully connect with the stories or characters. I’ve always struggled to really enjoy short stories and this one was sadly no different. These stories were more like character portraits, and they were very short and easy reads, but I was also left wanting more. Still, I thought it was a good exploration of immigrants and the reasons why people would risk their lives to cross the unpredictable sea in search of a better life; because of hope. I liked how Lalami brought twists to some of these stories as well, but I think I just prefer full-length novels over short stories. My full review is going up tomorrow!

Continue reading “#WWWWednesday: 15 April”

#WWWWednesday: 08 April

Hello, hello and welcome back to another episode of WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be answering these questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

My big question to you is: WHAT ARE BOOKS?! Because I certainly haven’t been reading them 😂😭 Since last Wednesday I’ve only managed to finish one book and that was a graphic novel for the blog tour I was part of today!

Gotham High by Melissa de la Cruz, illustrated by Thomas Pitilli ★★★½
I read this one for the FFBC tour and my stop was today! I haven’t read a DC comic before but I have seen seen pretty much all of the movies, so I really enjoyed this graphic novel! I love seeing known characters as their younger selves because I love knowing their origin story and how they end up where they do. The story/writing wasn’t anything ‘wow’ but it was so enjoyable spotting characters and I loved how the characters were diversified–Bruce Wayne is half-Chinese! Check out my full review.

Continue reading “#WWWWednesday: 08 April”

#WWWWednesday: 01 April

Hello, hello and welcome back to another episode of WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be answering these questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

Since last Wednesday I’ve managed to read… three books!

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #1) by Jessica Townsend ★★★★★
This was such a wonderful, fast-paced and heartwarming adventure! There may be a lot of elements that are similar to and remind me of Harry Potter but to me, this was just as enjoyable. The characters were all funny, charming and very quirky. The pacing was also fast and I couldn’t recommend this more if you’re looking for a simple, well-written fantasy/adventure to take your mind off current world news. Review coming soon!

Warcross (Warcross #1) by Marie Lu ★★★★☆
The ending of this book should be illegal! What a bleeding cliffhanger–if Wildcard didn’t already exist I would be pissed (and I absolutely mean this in the best way)! 🤣 This book was a helluva journey and I was here for every minute of it! The Warcross world gave me strong Ready Player One vibes but a simplified and easier to understand version that made reading it a breeze. I was sucked in from chapter one and I became fully invested in all our characters! Really keen to see what happens next… Review coming soon!

The Sunday Potluck Club (The Sunday Potluck Club #1) by Melissa Storm ★★¾
It took me several tries to actually get into this book but once I did it was a fast and fairly easy read. That said, it left me feeling pretty “meh” and was very different to what I expected. I thought there would be chats shared during the Sunday Potluck Club but what I got was insta-love, a lot of romance angst, and not particularly likeable characters… I really didn’t feel for any of them! Review coming soon!

Continue reading “#WWWWednesday: 01 April”

Sundays in Bed With… #MyWeeklyWrapUp

We’re back with another Sundays in Bed With… meme! This meme dares to ask you what book has been in your bed this morning and is hosted by Midnight Book Girl. Come share what book you’ve been you’ve spent time curled up reading in bed with, or which book you wish you had time to read today!

This Sunday I spent the day chilling in bed with Warcross. Yep, I haven’t finished Warcross yet. It’s not because it’s bad (because I ended up reading 150 pages in 2 hours last night!) but because I’ve been wanting to wait until closer to the group discussion date to finish it. I don’t think I can wait anymore though. I will be finishing it in bed tonight (hopefully…)!

When a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths. For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. When Emika hacks into the game illegally, she’s convinced she’ll be arrested, and is shocked when she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem … and he wants Emika for the job. In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all.

What are you currently reading?

Continue reading “Sundays in Bed With… #MyWeeklyWrapUp”

#WWWWednesday: 25 March

I’m writing this the day before so who knows if I’ll have finished another book by the time it posts! But today is Bali’s Day of Silence and is basically the Balinese New Year. It’s a cultural/religious event that happens every year and it’s basically when everything shuts down and we’re not allowed to use electricity, listen to music or do work amongst other things. Internet gets shut down, TV and radio networks don’t broadcast and well, when we say day of silence, we really mean it! The purpose of the day has always been for quiet introspection/meditation as we start a new (Balinese) calendar year. People stay quiet and indoors or in their housing complexes and the silence is actually palpable–it’s a heavy weight but not at all unpleasant (at least to me). I know it sounds extreme to a lot of people but it’s actually pretty nice to disconnect even if for a day. As a book loving introvert it’s really no biggie for me but a lot of people freak out big time! I’m certainly getting a lot of time for reading these days (and I’m not mad about it)! 😅

Hello, hello and welcome back to another episode of WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be answering these questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

Since last Wednesday I’ve managed to read four books:

Check, Please by Ngozi Ukazu ★★★★½
I have been gushing non-stop about this web comic since I discovered it. I binged on it and caught up to the most recent episode in a few hours. I can’t wait to see how it ends! This was such a joy to read and it’s exactly what I needed this week. It’s got a wonderfully hilarious group of characters at its centre and a heartmelting and swoon-worthy LGBTQ+ sports romance 🥰 Review coming soon!

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley ★★★★★
This book basically took me by the feels, shook me and shouted FEEL IT ALL. I was not ready for how emotional this book would make me! It was a beautifully written novel about grief and love. It was a love letter to books and who doesn’t love a boo about books?! This completely swept me away and made me fall in love with words all over again and I’d highly recommend it. Review coming soon!

The Dark Between Stars by Atticus Poetry ★★★½
This is my first time reading anything by Atticus and overall I did enjoy reading this collection, even if it was a little bit all over the place/disjointed. There were some poems that were more than a little “meh” but there were also many that hit close to home and made me a little teary eyed. This isn’t the best collection of poetry but there are a few on here that might be new favourites. Review coming soon (probably)!

The Bromance Book Club (Bromance Book Club #1) by Lyssa Kay Adams ★★★★☆
Leading man Gavin and the guys in the bromance book club are what won me over in this book. I struggled with Thea a bit, although overall found her character likeable enough. Her sister on the other hand was a completely different story and I disliked her intensely. The banter was on point and I loved how passionate the guys were to better themselves through romance novels. Read my full review!

(eARC) Eat, and Love Yourself by Sweeney Boo, Lilian Klapakowsky ★★★☆☆
The artwork in this graphic novel is superb and made me love it more. The book talks about an issue that affects so many people, myself included, so I was really excited for this storyline but I was let down. We’re promised a journey through recovery, self-acceptance and love but we don’t get much of that. Plus the ending was so abrupt and pretty disappointing. Review coming soon!

Continue reading “#WWWWednesday: 25 March”