Girls of Paper and Fire Review

Girls of Paper and Fire Review

By Natasha Ngan

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books

Print Length: 385

Release Year: 2018

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.82

Available on Amazon, B&N, or you local library/ Libby

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.
Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge. (Goodreads)

This review was originally published on my personal blog (crystinaluna.com)

It’s been a while since I’ve read this book, and though my memory of it is beginning to fade I still remember it fondly. It was the first book I had read in a while that I really enjoyed, and was one of the first fantasy books I’ve enjoyed in a few years. I’ve never really been a huge fan of fantasy (until recently), but yet this book had me utterly enthralled in the world. So much so, there were times it overwhelmed me and I was forced to set the book down for a short time. 

There are many great things about the book, but what made it stand out to me (other than the LGBT representation) was the exceptional world-building. I found the caste system in this book particularly interesting, with its heavy ties to species dictating the hierarchy. An allegory for race, that was inclusive and relatable to all readers. The real surprise was how well-developed and easy to understand it was upon first reading. It was easy to catch on the customs of this society without the book becoming lengthy to the point of absurdity. YA has a reputation for underdeveloped world building, the focus often put on the characters and the situation. While this book is very character heavy, it does a very good job of creating a realistic and understandable world. Not so fantastic that it’s unimaginable, but fantastic enough to allow the reader to escape the clutches of reality. The only downside is, especially at the beginning, the story seemed very info-dumpy. After reading the first few chapters I found my brain a little tired from absorbing so much. Regardless, I enjoyed the world.

The true downside of the story, for me, was the characters. They were not bad, in the sense that I enjoyed reading about them, but they were not the best. The protagonist particularly often came off as inconsistent. She constantly went back and forth between being empowering and annoying in her indecisiveness. To be entirely honest, I found her love interest far more interesting, with a backstory more prone to action and with a certain amount of finality in her decisions and fate. Lei, the protagonist, on the other hand, lacked this. And though I understand why the author chose to focus the story on her, I struggled to relate to her constantly going back and forth between deciding to try to live happily and rebel. It is not an easy decision, I understand, but her belief that she had no hope of escaping her reality made her indecisiveness all the more annoying.

Subjective Rating

Objective Rating

Final Rating

Cemetery Boys OwnVoices Reflection

Cemetery Boys OwnVoices Reflection

By Aiden Thomas 

Publisher: Swoon Reads

Release Date: September 1, 2020

Genre: Young-Adult Paranormal Romance

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

As a reviewer, I consume a lot of content, especially books. I’m not very picky and like to diversity my reading with a large variety of genres, authors and subject matters. But even in doing so, I’ve found it difficult to find books I can see myself in The closest I’ve ever gotten was Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which I first read my sophomore year of high school. It was the first time I read a book with queer Latinx characters, and it was the first time I truly related to a character on such a deep cultural level. Ari and Dante will forever hold a special place in my heart, a place I hope they will share with Yadriel and Julian. 

When I first heard about Aiden Thomas’s Cemetery Boys I was immediately excited at the prospect of reading it. Not only because it will give me an opportunity to enjoy a book that highlights my Latin heritage, but because of it’s positive representation of Brujeria. 

If my more traditional family members knew me for who I truly am, they’d likely disown me for two reasons: the first being that I am queer; the second being the fact that I spiritually identify as an eclectic witch. In they’re very traditional Catholic eyes any form of brujeria is cursed. To see a Latinx novel include it and not have it portray as this horribly bad thing is exceptionally comforting and exciting. And, to be honest, I don’t know much about things like Dia de los Muertos, nor traditional brujeria of the Latin world. The chance that I may learn some about those things, even a little, is so invigorating!

What I am mostly looking forward to is the connection this book will provide me with my culture. I am often burdened by it: the sad truth of being a light-skinned Latina is that it puts me in a place of privilege that has often lead to a cultural disconnect caused by colourism. I often find myself not feeling like I’m a true Latina, but at the same time, I’m not (fully) white. I feel like I don’t belong anywhere really. Throughout my life, I’ve been left out of things because of how I look and what I believe. As a result, books like Cemetery Boys are invaluable to me, as they allow me to connect with my culture without barriers and allow me to learn and experience things I’ve missed out on. These books allow me to feel free and safe as I explore my cultural identity and help me understand what it means to be a member of the Latinx community without fear of being excluded over such stupid things as skin colour and lack of fluency in my native tongue. I’ve spent too long feeling like I’m on the outside, that I’m somehow “other,” but books like this remind me that I’m not alone. 

I can’t wait to read Cemetery Boys, and am patiently waiting for my pre-ordered copy to arrive. If you are interested in reading this book, it is currently available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, The Book Depository, Kobo, and Google. And a special thanks to Aiden Thomas for writing this wonderful book, and Hear Our Voices Book Tours for allowing me to participate in this tour.