Book Review: Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko – An Illuminating and Riveting West African-Inspired Fantasy That Will Sweep You Off Your Feet, Blow Your Mind, and Leave You in Awe

review_raybearer

Blurb:

Nothing is more important than loyalty.
But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

CW’s Review:

I feel incredibly out of depth writing this book review. I mean, I spent a solid twenty minutes trying to come up with a book review title that would adequately and succinctly describe the beautiful mess of feelings that I have for Raybearer. There are many, many, many reasons why I think Raybearer is fantastic – and I’ll do my best to articulate them well, because, wow, I feel so much for this book. In the fewest words possible, I genuinely think that Raybearer may be my ‘the fantasy of the year’.

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Book Review: The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert – A Warm Yet Sharp ‘All in One Day’ Love Story that Takes Place on Election Day

The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert. Tagline: Make it count.

Blurb:

Marva Sheridan was born ready for this day. She’s always been driven to make a difference in the world, and what better way than to vote in her first election?

Duke Crenshaw is so done with this election. He just wants to get voting over with so he can prepare for his band’s first paying gig tonight. Only problem? Duke can’t vote.

When Marva sees Duke turned away from their polling place, she takes it upon herself to make sure his vote is counted. She hasn’t spent months doorbelling and registering voters just to see someone denied their right.

And that’s how their whirlwind day begins, rushing from precinct to precinct, cutting school, waiting in endless lines, turned away time and again, trying to do one simple thing: vote. They may have started out as strangers, but as Duke and Marva team up to beat a rigged system (and find Marva’s missing cat), it’s clear that there’s more to their connection than a shared mission for democracy.

CW’s Review:

I don’t know how Brandy Colbert does it. I don’t know she deftly balances a story that is both incredibly warm and soft but also incisive in its discourse in activism and privilege. After reading The Voting Booth, I came away with these warm and fuzzies because the love story is such a treasure and a delight but I also loved how it made me think, reflect, and feel deeply about the Black experiences portrayed in the story.

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Book Review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong – A Brutal Yet Tender Retelling of Romeo and Juliet Like You’ve Never Read Before

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong.

Blurb:

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

CW’s Review:

I was given an ARC of this book by the author; this does not influence my opinions outlined in this book review.

How do you even begin to write a review for one of your most anticipated reads of 2020 that didn’t just exceed your expectations, but its story stabbed you in the heart, sucked the lifeforce and tears out of you, and made you ache and feel horror all at once – and by the end you wanted to thank Chloe for it?

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Book Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – A Historical Fantasy Inspired by Mexican Folklore, in which a Girl, a God of Death, and I (After Reading This) are Forever Changed

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. A badge at the bottom-left that says, 'Reviewed by CW, The Quiet Pond'. In the centre is a image of Xiaolong, the pink axolotl wearing a flower hat, waving at you.

Blurb:

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

CW’s Review:

After I finished Gods of Jade and Shadow, I gently placed the book down on my pillow, closed it shut, tucked the book into its rightful place in my bookshelf, and promptly sobbed my eyes out. Because I wasn’t kidding in the title – as a reader, one of my greatest pleasures (and in extension, my greatest heartaches) is finding books that change me forever; books that challenge what I know what it means to love and feel deeply, break down what I thought I knew, and then elevate me by showing me a new and profound understanding.

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Book Review: Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe – A Charming Witchy Middle-Grade about the Magic of Doing Your Best Against All Odds

Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe.
Blurb:

Sometimes all you need is a pinch of magic…

Eva Evergreen is determined to earn the rank of Novice Witch before she turns thirteen years old. If she doesn’t, she’ll lose her magic forever. For most young witches and wizards, it’s a simple enough test:

ONE: Help your town, do good all around.
TWO: Live there for one moon, don’t leave too soon.
THREE: Fly home by broomstick, the easiest of tricks.

The only problem? Eva only has a pinch of magic. She summons heads of cabbage instead of flowers and gets a sunburn instead of calling down rain. And to add insult to injury, whenever she overuses her magic, she falls asleep.

When she lands on the tranquil coastal town of Auteri, the residents expect a powerful witch, not a semi-magical girl. So Eva comes up with a plan: set up a magical repair shop to aid Auteri and prove she’s worthy. She may have more blood than magic, but her “semi-magical fixes” repair the lives of the townspeople in ways they never could have imagined. Only, Eva’s bit of magic may not be enough when the biggest magical storm in history threatens the town she’s grown to love. Eva must conjure up all of the magic, bravery, and cleverness she can muster or Auteri and her dreams of becoming a witch will wash away with the storm.

CW’s Review:

If you think the cover for Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch is delightful, wait ‘til you read its story. Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch is a stellar debut, filled with empowering messages for readers of all ages (but especially for younger readers!), an imaginative story filled with sweets and friendships and overcoming, and a memorable heroine who you won’t help but adore.

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