Book Review | The Rise of Kyoshi

Title: The Rise of Kyoshi

Author: F.C. Yee

Publisher: Amulet Books

Published: 16 July 2019

Pages: 442

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Gah! I absolutely LOVE Kyoshi! And Rangi! And I will hold back as much as my gushing as possible…actually, that’s a lie, I probably won’t!

Okay, so on to the actual story, I guess. After Avatar Kuruk died, there was a power vacuum left open and many places devolved into chaos. The people closest to Kuruk, Jianzhu and Kelsang, went around the world to try to find the next Avatar, which took quite a few years. On their travels, they did find Kyoshi, as a young girl barely surviving on the island.

Nine years after that initial meeting, Jianzhu and Kelsang, along with another companion of Kuruk’s Hei-Ran, are training the new Avatar Yun. Kyoshi was taken in by Kelsang and she soon became friends with both Yun and Rangi (Hei-Ran’s daughter).

But then Jianzhu finds out that Yun is not actually the next Avatar but Kyoshi is, obviously for those who’ve watched Avatar: The Last Airbender, we already knew this. Kyoshi decides the best course of action is to run away as she can no longer trust Jianzhu after he kills Yun and Kelsang (this happens pretty close to the beginning, so it’s not really a spoiler).

Rangi joins Kyoshi on this escape trip and soon they fall in with her parents’ old criminal gang to help her eventually face down Jianzhu.

Again, I absolutely love Kyoshi, but probably my favorite parts were with Rangi and Kyoshi. This f/f romance is definitely in my top ships from now on, it’s especially awesome with the fact that Kyoshi is bisexual (she used to have feelings for Yun). Bisexuals for the win!! Anyway, to let you know how amazing the relationship between Rangi and Kyoshi, here are some quotes for your enjoyment (and mine):

  • “You don’t think you deserve peace and happiness and good things, but you do!” Rangi yelled. “You, Kyoshi! Not the Avatar, but you!?
  • “Where you go, I go.” (Which I absolutely love because it’s a callback to the bible verse from Ruth “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.” Apparently, this is one of the most quoted bible verses after 1 Corinthians 13).
  • “Kyoshi realized that comforting [Rangi] throughout the night was both an honor and a torture she wouldn’t have traded for anything in the world.
  • “With their eyes on each other, it was easy to be brave. Maybe that’s the only way we get through this, Kyoshi thought. Just never look away.”
  • Also, there’s a scene where Rangi is training Kyoshi and Rangi makes her hold the horse stance for 10 minutes. To test Kyoshi’s strength and focus, Rangi drapes herself over Kyoshi and kisses her throughout the 10 minutes.

I just, I just can’t with these two adorable humans!!

Kyoshi is such an amazing character on her own as well though. Not only an amazing character but her development throughout the book was beautiful to watch and read. I can definitely see where her desire for justice was born in this book. Kyoshi was a young girl who was never viewed with any respect or importance in her life, aside from Kelsang, Yun, and Rangi. Her background from an abandoned, impoverished background, along with her being identified as the Avatar so late in life means she had to fight for everything in her life. Seeing her grow from that little girl who had to fight for every scrap to the Avatar, knowing how her story ends and knowing that the Kyoshi warriors are formed in her name, was an absolutely lovely. I would definitely like to see more about why her parents abandoned her and maybe see a short story from their point of view. But other than that, gosh I just cannot wait to read the next book and to see more of Kyoshi and Rangi.

Some more quotes to show how much I love this woman:

  • “They’re all the same, Kyoshi thought. Every single one. Whether they clothe themselves in business or brotherhood or a higher calling only they can see, it doesn’t matter. They’re one and the same. They look at themselves like forces of nature, as inevitable ends, but they’re not. Their depth is as false as the shoals at low tide. They twist the meaning of justice to absolve themselves of conscience. They’re humans like us, made of skin and guts and pain. They need to be reminded of that fact.”
  • “Kyoshi gently nudged Rangi’s chin upward. She could no more prevent herself from doing this than she could keep from breathing, living, fearing. “I do feel loved,” she declared. Rangi’s beautiful face shone in reflection. Kyoshi leaned in and kissed her. A warm glow mapped Kyoshi’s veins. Eternity distilled in a single brush of skin. She thought she would never be more alive than now.”
  • “It was said that each Avatar was born in fitting times, to an era that needed them. Judging by its start, the era of Kyoshi would be marred by uncertainty, fear, and death, the only gifts she seemed capable of producing for the world. The people would never revere her like they did Yangchen or smile at her like they did Kuruk. Then let it be so, she thought. She would fight her ill fortune, her bad stars, and protect those who might despise her to the very end of her days.”
  • To Kyoshi that had been the easiest lesson to take in. She was nothing special. She had never been anything special. That was a mantra she believed in.”

This book did a fantastic job of exploring ethics, justice, and corruption, as well as the usual destiny and responsibility mantle that the Avatar takes up. At the beginning, Kyoshi has to decided whether to stay with Jianzhu, who was actually been pretty beneficial to the stability of the Earth Kingdom, but who did murder two people Kyoshi cared deeply for in cold blood. Or she can join up with the daofei, the criminal group her parents started in order to seek revenge against Jianzhu. It’ll definitely be interesting to see who Kyoshi will become in the next book? What she will be known for? And what she is willing to fight for?

Of course, for anyone who loves Avatar: the Last Airbender, this is definitely something you’ll want to check out. Especially, if you are a fan of the Kyoshi Warriors like I am or a fan of strong, independent women. With The Rise of Kyoshi, it expands the ATLA universe while also introducing the readers to new customs, cultures, and politics in the universe as well.

So, a request? When can I get a sky bison of my own? Pretty please, I’ve been very good!

Happy Reading Darlings

Book Review | The Shadow of Kyoshi

Title: The Shadow of Kyoshi

Author: F.C. Yee

Publisher: Amulet Books

Published: 21 July 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

How does Yee make me fall more in love with both Kyoshi and Rangi? It’s a mystery but these two characters have my heart forever. Also, if I could ask the gods, spirits, the Avatar themselves to find someone to love me like Rangi loves Kyoshi, that would be great. Thanks!

The second book in Avatar Kyoshi’s series and I’m surprised that I enjoyed it just as much (if not more) as the first book. We first see Kyoshi in the Earth kingdom trying to handle the gangs that have infiltrated the lower ring of Ba Sing Se. There is also an introduction to a new character Jinpa, a monk from the Southern Air Temple, who has become Kyoshi’s secretary since she visited there.

Kyoshi receives a letter from the Fire Lord asking for the Avatar’s assistance with a national matter. She aquieces, mostly because she wants to reunite with Rangi (refresher: Rangi went to the North Pole with her mom, Hei-Ran, who needed to be healed from Jianzhu). Seeing them reunite was so stickin’ adorable, but it was also great to see the first interaction between Rangi and Jinpa play out like they were old friends. They both ganged up on Kyoshi for not taking care of herself.

Yet, the Fire Nation is not the pantheon of peace that most people think. There is a coming civil war in the land and Fire Lord Zoryu needs all the help he can get to keep his country intact. Not only that but it appears that Yun is not as dead as we thought.

The content of this book really begins to highlight Kyoshi coming into her own power and having to make those difficult decisions. We see her grow and mature, just like all the other characters in the book. And of course, we have some prime Kyoshi and Rangi romance moments that I can’t help but highlight:

  • Kyoshi had gone so long without her center she almost forgot what it felt like. Rangi made her human again, balanced and whole (pg. 74)
  • Rangi tells Kyoshi before the party with the Fire Lord that Kyoshi can’t touch or kiss anywhere above Rangi’s neck because it’s a sign of disrespect. To which we have this great line of narration: “But those were Kyoshi’s favorite parts.” And I definitely like to imagine Kyoshi’s face as someone who has kicked her puppy.
  • On a whim, she picked Rangi up by the waist and whirled her around. No one was there to schold them for inappropriate touching. Rangi laughed despite herself and tried to swat at her but couldn’t reach as far. “Stop it! You’re embarrassing me!” “That’s the point!” (pgs. 156-157)
  • The word echoed with bitterness and dread in Rangi’s throat, and through it Kyoshi saw deeper into the fire of her glowing girl than she ever had before. (They then go on to discuss Rangi taking Kyoshi to visit her home). (pg. 160)
  • I can’t tell you anything for certain about the future. Only that I’ll be there with you. (Rangi to Kyoshi, pg. 328

I cannot get enough of these two! But there was more to the story. This one had political intrigue and clans vying for power that developed more of the history of the Avatar world, specifically the Fire Nation. In the end, there is the hints of the clan system soon ending and the Fire Nation being only loyal to the Fire Lord (the seeds of the power-hungry Sozin and Ozai being planted).

This book was mostly a focus on not just power and the lengths we would go to achieve power, but also a focus on revenge and how corrupt we can become when we decide our self-regard is more important than the entire world. I’m super upset that this is the last book in this series, but I’m hoping that there are more books in the future that have more spin-offs of other characters or Avatars.

Happy Reading Darlings!

eARC Review | Tools of a Thief

Title: Tools of a Thief

Author: D. Hale Rambo

Publisher: Fiercewood Press

Publication: 25 May 2021

Pages: 170

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I received an ARC ebook copy from Books Forward in exchange for an honest reivew.

I’m not even sure where to start on this. I read this in one sitting not out of interest really but out of complete boredom (and the fact that I had to write a review). To start off, Zizy assumed quitting her job, stealing from her boss/aunt, and magically crossing across the continent was a way to stop being a thief and get away from her insane aunt. Not so much because Zizy’s aunt catches up to her and wants Zizzy to steal something else for her to repay what Zizy stole. On the way, Zizy befriends Laysa (romance soon blooms between them) and Pace, and Zizy will either have to finish the job or loses the people she loves.

First, I don’t even know what’s going on in this world. I felt mildly confused most of the time as I was reading by the world that Rambo created. It didn’t feel well explained or planned out. It felt like I was starting in the middle of a series or even on a side story, instead of the first book in a series. I’m not even sure if it is a series.

As for the characters, they were fine. Nothing to really complain or hype about. Zizy was probably the most fleshed out of the three main characters, but the story was also so short I didn’t even feel like I had a chance to get to know or connect with any of the characters. Not to mention the fact that the three main characters all became a team and friends quickly with no real strife.

The story itself was interesting and so was the set-up. But then it just all kind of fell apart for me. Each time there was a problem, something magically saved them. I didn’t even feel any suspense or terror with Emba, Zizy’s aunt, or Carmela, the woman who Zizy is supposed to steal from (and as a sidenote Emba and Carmela know each other).

All in all, the whole thing just felt off. The pacing was weird and the characters felt too much like cardboard cut outs. I can’t even say that the romance between Zizy and Layla made up for it. Again, the story line sounded interesting which is why I wanted to read it, but I do think it needs a lot more work.

Happy Reading Darlings!

ARC Review | The Dead and the Dark

Title: The Dead and the Dark

Author: Courtney Gould

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Publication Date: 3 August 2021

Pages: 352

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Content Warnings: Homophobia, hate crime, death, murder, child death, biphobia

I received an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wow! I am blown away by how this all came together. The Dead and the Dark is about the things that lurk in dark corners, the past that cannot remain hidden, and about finding home in places you least expected.

Logan Ortiz-Woodley wants to live a normal life. She wants one place to call home instead of the many, many hotels she’s lived in, and she’d really like to make her own path. Her dads are the stars of TV’s most popular ghost hunters show ParaSpectors, so she’s spent most of her childhood going from one haunted place to another for her dad’s show.

Snakebite, Oregon is a typical small-town that everybody’s forgotten about. But something lurks there and teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the whether is acting up and people point a finger at Logan’s dads, Alejo and Brandon.

Ashley Barton is a native of Snakebite, Oregon and her boyfriend is the first teen to go missing. She’s felt his presence ever since and refuses to believe he’s dead. With the Ortiz-Woodleys in town, his ghost following Ashley, the only person she can trust is the mysterious Logan. Ashley and Logan team up to figure out who is haunting Snakebite, their investigations reveals truths about the town, their families, and themselves that they may not be ready for.

Alejo and Brandon are so completely adorable that I cannot handle it. It does break my heart that Logan thinks Brandon hates her since she doesn’t know what actually happened. The enemies to friendship then to blossoming relationship between Ashley and Logan is so wonderful and heartwarming to see. I’m also a sucker for the enemies to love trope!

This was unique and mind-blowing book with twists and turns. I was actually shocked about what was going on in Snakebite and it was fascinating to see every couple of chapters these inside thoughts from this dark, terrifying thing that is haunting the town.

Truly, there is something that haunts the town but the beauty of Gould’s book is that it’s really the town itself, the people, the hatred, the prejudices. The more people hate and judge and discriminate the more the darkness grows and becomes more powerful. In our day and age, the message that comes across in this story is more important than ever to listen to and understand. We cannot let our own hatred become toxic, to sink so far into the soil that there is no escape.

Happy Reading Lovelies!

Book Review | The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

Title: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

Author: Becky Chambers

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Published: 5 July 2016

Pages: 443

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Oh! My! Goodness! I had not really heard about this book but kept seeing it on people’s 2020 year end reviews. The library I work at recently acquired it, so I over the Christmas holiday break, I decided why not read something fun. And, I made such a great decision!

This book follows a motley crew on an exciting journey through space that brings me serious Firefly feelings! And yes, be prepared for Firefly gifs!

Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the Wayfarer. The patched up ship has seen better days, but it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the universe, and most importantly, distance from her past. Also, sounds to me like Serenity!

Rosemary is an introspective woman who learned to keep most things close to the chest, but she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kissy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain. I’m just saying if you cannot see the similarities between this crew and the Serenity’s crew, then I don’t know what to say.

Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy, which is exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. The Wayfarer tunnels wormholes through space and tunneling wormholes through space through to a distant planet is definitely lucrative. Risking her life wasn’t part of Rosemary’s plan, but she’ll soon have to learn how to rely on others on this adventure in the far reaches of deep space.

Okay, if you couldn’t tell, I absolutely loved this book and totally understand why so many others had it on their favorite reads list of 2020! I definitely think this book was so much fun to read and one of my favorite aspects was the relationship between Rosemary and Sissix that soon developed into a romantic relationship. They were adorable and so loving, along with respecting each other and I just cannot with these two adorable people….uhh person and…non-person…??

I will say that this book wasn’t really plot driven. Yes, they were going to create wormholes for a new planet being added to the larger galactic legal system thing (I don’t remember what it was called, sorry). But it takes a while to get there, so most of the book was about the characters and was definitely character-driven. Thankfully, Chambers does such an amazing job of making these characters so lovable and enjoyable to learn about and see interact. There is some action at the end, as the one of the people from the planet doesn’t want it to be included and sabotages the whole thing. So, there is some action. Obviously, it’s not the important part and as you can see it didn’t leave that much of a mark on me. I definitely recommend this book to everyone, especially to those who are Firefly fans!

Happy Reading Darlings!

Book Review | House of Earth and Blood

Title: House of Earth and Blood

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publication Date: 3 March 2020

Pages: 803

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Goodreads | Amazon | Bookshop

Gosh, Sarah J. Maas blows me away again with the amazing story and world she has created. Bryce Quinlan is a half-fae, half-human who works at an antiquities shop, trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life. Her best friend, Danika Fendyr, is an alpha werewolf and head of the Pack of Devils. One night everything changes. Danika and her whole pack are killed. Philip Briggs is charged for the crime, a criminal and rebel against the current society and governmental structure. Bryce tries to go on with her life with little success.

Two years pass, murders like Danika’s pop up again. Briggs is apparently not guilty of this crime. So, Bryce and Hunt Athalar, an angel from the rebellion, are charged with trying to figure out who is the real criminal.

The relationship between Hunt and Bryce is really adorable. I love a good enemies to friends to lovers, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Each of them have their own issues and scars, they’re broken, but that doesn’t mean they are worthless.

Crescent City is a place with fae, witches, vampires, angels, and all manner of creatures. Humans are treated as second-class citizens, if even that. There is currently a war going on in Pangera due to humans not wanting to be part of this new structure (can’t say I blame them). It took a bit to truly understand what was going on in this world and by the end, I still am not sure I understand. I hope this is cleared up in the coming books, but for those who haven’t read, I suggest don’t think about it too much. Just let the story unfold around you.

Okay, there’s a reason I didn’t give this 5 stars. I would’ve, if there was more diversity. I’m really tired of author’s not including BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ characters. Yes, there is Fury and Juniper. However, they are at most secondary characters, I would even go as far to call Fury a minor character. I do hope they have more scenes in future books. Yet, it still bothers me that this whole story is about how humans are treated as second-class citizens, as worthless, and yet, there are no BIPOC or LGBTQ characters who have been treated as second-class citizens throughout the United States (and other parts of the world) for most of its existence. It’s also annoying when fantasy or science fiction books don’t include diversity in their books. They’ve created a wondrous, imaginative world and yet can’t imagine BIPOC or LGBTQ people in this world. For Maas, this is her third series so I’m a bit disappointed this hasn’t changed from her Throne of Glass series.

It is a wonderful story with an amazing twist at the end, and I’m excited to see what happens next, especially with that last scene between Jesiba Roga and Aidas. I’m excited to see how this story evolves and how Bryce and Co. deal with the oncoming forces.

Happy Reading Lovelies!

Book Reviews | The Midnight Library

Title: The Midnight Library

Author: Matt Haig

Publisher: 29 Sept. 2020 (United States)

Publisher: Viking

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I was a bit disappointed with this book. The concept sounds amazing! ‘Between life and death, there is a library , and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices… Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?’ Well Nora Seed gets that chance. At the beginning of the book, she decides to kill herself and afterwards, she is left in a library and a lot of heavy regrets. Through it all she goes through many possible lives to find a life that is fulfilling enough to live and stay.

The blending of sci-fi and fantasy was quite well done, and Haig is a great writer. Yet, I didn’t feel much of a connection with Nora nor with the book in general. It wasn’t a bad book but not one I would write home about or really recommend.

After a while of Nora choosing lives to go in, it starts to feel a bit repetitive. Haig does have a section where he lists the many, many lives Nora lives through, so it does speed up. By the end, Nora doesn’t actually choose any of those lives, instead, she goes back to her root life and decides to live.

As someone who was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in high school, I understand the issues Nora is going through. I also think it is important to have books like this that feature characters who deal with mental health issues. However, I felt like the ending was too happy, everything tied up with a bow, and we all leave stage left. I’m assuming Haig wanted to leave readers with a hopeful lookout on life and have everything tied up in the end. But, I think this can be achieved while also representing the idea that depression and anxiety don’t go away just like that.

The one book that I think pulls off the balance of hopeful but recognizing the lifelong illness that depression/anxiety can be is Alice Oseman’s Solitaire. She writes “I mean, I’m still not one hundred per cen sure that I really want to wake up tomorrow. I’m not fixed, just because Micheal’s here. I still want to get into bed and lie there all day because it’s a very easy thing to do. But right now all I can see are all these kids prancing about in the snow and smiling and waving like they haven’t got exams and parents and university choices and career options and all the other stressful things to worry about. . . . I can’t say that I feel happy. I’m not even sure if I would know if I was. But all those people down there look so funny and it makes me want to laugh and cry and dance and sing and not take a flying, dramatic, spectacular leap off this building. Really” (Oseman, 384).

I do appreciate the fact that the book was focused on Nora’s on agency and her regrets, most of which were not something she needed to regret. The most important part is that at the end, it wasn’t any one person that made Nora wanted to live, she wanted to live for herself. I love this idea; however, I think it’s also important for people with mental health or addiction to know that sometimes it’s hard to live for yourself and it’s okay to live for others until you get to the point of living for yourself. Again, another Alice Oseman quote from Solitaire that I think relates to this: “All I know is that I’m here. And I’m alive. And I’m not alone” (392).

Overall, The Midnight Library had some great ideas but I think I missed something towards the middle and throughout the rest of the book.

Happy Reading, Lovelies!