Blog Tour & ARC Review + Giveaway: Ink in the Blood(Ink in The Blood #1)by Kim Smejkal

(Full Blog Tour Schedule here.)

Ink in the Blood(Ink in The Blood #1)by Kim Smejkal

Published 11 February 2020 by HMH Books for Young Readers

A lush, dark YA fantasy debut that weaves together tattoo magic, faith, and eccentric theater in a world where lies are currency and ink is a weapon, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake.

Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.

Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.

To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself.

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*ARC Kindly provided by HMH Books thru FFBC in exchange for an honest review*

Since I’ve reached my 20’s getting a tattoo has always been on my “what-if” list and getting one is still something that I haven’t ticked off from that list. (lol) Now, getting a tattoo without really feeling the pain of it – uhm – yes please, right? Magical Tattoos, Eccentric Theater and a religion where tattoos are of great importance – these are just some of the words that really got me interested and intrigued with Ink In The Blood.

“But the child didn’t leave. Not really. She transformed into the Divine, still guiding us with her ink from afar.”

Ink In The Blood’s story focuses on Celia and Anya. People or what they call Inklings of a religion called Profeta. This religion uses tattoo to represent their Divine’s will. The followers receive this magical tattoo and guides them on whatever life circumstance they are facing at that moment. These two Inklings has been serving Profeta for ten years and they are witnesses that everything that this religion has been preaching is built in lies and the magical tattoos that they have been giving? Instead of guiding the followers, it strips away their freedom. How hard or easy would it be to strip away the beliefs that you have built for more than half of your life?

“With her black everything – short hair, suspenders, tie, top hat, attitude – Celia stuck out like a monochrome stain amid all the color and life.”

Celia is the feisty protagonist. Actions without much thinking. Ruled by alcohol and hate. Determined and strong-willed. She aspires to simply be free. I came to like her character at around 60% of the book because for some reason, I really cannot connect with her. I find Celia to be a pretty complex character because I really had a hard time reading her. I cannot anticipate what her next move would be.

Anya, on the other hand, is the voice of reason on this duo. She thinks things through, and I get this vibe that she’s very modest and gentle. A total opposite of Celia. Maybe that’s why they are best friends, right?

“The Rabble Mob of Minos is nick-named as Citizens of Everywhere and living apart from regular society and opened their gates to sell revelry and illusion. You were born into it or you stood in the audience – in-between didn’t exist.”

Celia and Anya were able to find their escape from Profeta thru the Rovers aka The Rabble Mob of Minos. They are travelling a theater-folk who performed the traditional Commedia Follia. Kinda similar to a circus group. I really didn’t have an idea how would Celia and Anya be a part of the Rovers as they were a fiercely tight-knit group. Impenetrable. But that first performance/audition they did deserve a standing ovation! The performance was exciting and thrilling!

“Perhaps she started out good, but for all her desire to help, her own people had killed her twice. It was enough to change anyone from philanthropist to manipulator. It was clear that she held some grudges.”

Just when Celia and Anya are adjusting to the troupe life someone, they never expected followed them – The Divine suddenly made an appearance. Now, this is where things got a bit confusing to me. Because a LOT happened when The Divine showed up! I honestly got lost and I was not able to fully grasp the scenes that happened. I just find myself skimming thru some pages.

But despite that, I find the story good in overall. It had its ups and down and it took me sometime to get used to the flowery writing, but the solid magical system and world building carry me thru some of the mishaps I have encountered while reading. Plus, the story is original, unique and really intriguing. I can definitely see myself anticipating for the next book!

3/5 Flower Rating

Another question mark bloomed on Celia’s forearm, bigger and bolder than the others. The ink unfurled in an oily black stretched-out tentacle, wrist to elbow, the dot on the bottom a furious splatter. An hour ago Celia had still tried to hide Anya’s messages by tugging her shirtsleeve down. An hour ago she’d still cared that she was in a busy shisha lounge, surrounded by people who might notice the strangeness of Divine tattoos appearing, then vanishing, on her skin.

But lovely absinthe made cares like that disappear.

Celia pressed her finger to the angry splotch on the bottom. I’d tell you where I am, Anny, if only I knew! Her gaze drifted over the haphazard collection of empty glasses on the table in front of her. “Huzzah, absinthe.”

The rest of the room was alive with clusters of pretty people doing flirty things: enjoying their drinks and smoke, unwinding after a long day of doing whatever it was normal people did all day. Shimmering tenors, as individual as fingerprints and much more visible, shone around each body. Tenors were usually the boldest thing about a person’s look, but there in the lounge their glint and vibrancy blended in the fog of shisha smoke that swirled from the colorful hookahs. Glasses clinked, laughter swelled, and everything fluttered: colorful sleeves, loose pants, long hair, light from a hundred candles, jingly jewelry hanging from ears and wrists and necks.

With her black everything— short hair, suspenders, tie, top hat, attitude— Celia stuck out like a monochrome stain amid all the color and life. Judging by the lounge owner’s fluency in scowls, they’d finally noticed.

Not bothering to right her awkward sprawl, Celia smiled as they approached.

Or maybe it wasn’t a smile, but a frown.

Whichever way was up. Whichever way was down.

“Time to move on,” they said, their voice a deep baritone.

No, time to take a hostage. Pulling the hookah to the floor, Celia clamped the large bowl between her legs and hugged tight around its neck. They wouldn’t muscle her out with so much expensive blown glass at risk. “A few more blasts, good soul,” she said, jiggling the mouthpiece in her hand and then putting it to her lips.

The smoke trapped in the bowl tasted like all the people who’d touched the pipe that day, swirling together. Dia, how long had she been sitting there, doing nothing but staring?

The owner raised their caterpillar eyebrows as Celia struggled to hold in a violent cough. “You’ve had the green fairy; you’ve had some shisha. Now out you go, Lalita.”

A flush crept up Celia’s neck. Fragile bird, my nimble little ass.

Read the full Excerpt here.

Kim Smejkal lives with her family on muse-satiating Vancouver Island, which means she’s often lost in the woods or wandering a beach. She writes dark fantasy for young adults and not-so-young adults, always with a touch of magic. Her debut novel, INK IN THE BLOOD, will release from HMH in early 2020, with a sequel to follow in 2021. She is represented by Daniel Lazar of Writers House.

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Get a chance to win one (1) of two (2) finished copies of INK IN THE BLOOD by Kim Smejkal and temporary tattoos (US Only)

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Blog Tour & ARC Review + Giveaway: Loveboat, Taipei (Loveboat, Taipei #1) by Abigail Hing Wen

(Full Blog Tour Schedule here.)

Loveboat, Taipei (Loveboat, Taipei #1)   by Abigail Hing Wen

Published 07 January 2020 by Harper Teen

Perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen, and praised as “an intense rush of rebellion and romance” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Garber, this romantic and layered Own Voices debut from Abigail Hing Wen is a dazzling, fun-filled romp.

“Our cousins have done this program,” Sophie whispers. “Best kept secret. Zero supervision.

And just like that, Ever Wong’s summer takes an unexpected turnGone is Chien Tan, the strict educational program in Taiwan that Ever was expecting. In its place, she finds Loveboat: a summer-long free-for-all where hookups abound, adults turn a blind eye, snake-blood sake flows abundantly, and the nightlife runs nonstop.

But not every student is quite what they seem:

Ever is working toward becoming a doctor but nurses a secret passion for dance.

Rick Woo is the Yale-bound child prodigy bane of Ever’s existence whose perfection hides a secret.

Boy-crazy, fashion-obsessed Sophie Ha turns out to have more to her than meets the eye.

And under sexy Xavier Yeh’s shell is buried a shameful truth he’ll never admit.

When these students’ lives collide, it’s guaranteed to be a summer Ever will never forget.

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*ARC Kindly provided by Harper Teen thru FFBC in exchange for an honest review*

Starting this book on the first day of the year was really a good decision! I had a great time reading. Makes me more excited for my own Taipei trip this year.

Abigail Hing Wen have written a very promising and powerful debut which as the tagline says fits “For fans of Crazy Rich Asians or Jane Austen Comedy of Manners, with a hint of La La Land” Now, I love all of these three and have them altogether in one book, uhm yes please?

“This is Loveboat. One big party. All summer. And no one’s going to ruin it.”

On her last summer before college, Ever was sent by her parents to an educational program in Taipei. But what her parents don’t know is that this program also known as Loveboat often leaves the students unsupervised. This means a summer-long free-for-all where hookups abound, adults turn a blind eye, snake-blood sake flows abundantly, and the nightlife runs nonstop – things that are very new for Ever.

“My parents sent me to discover my heritage, but in the process, I’m also finding parts of myself, even if that self isn’t who they want me to be.”

The story introduces us to a unique set of characters that I enjoyed reading about. Ever is studying to be a doctor but her passion is really with dancing. She was introduced as this character who lives by her parents rules but as the story progress, we’ve read about her breaking every single one of those rules and along the way learned new things about her  heritage and herself.

I had fun reading about the bubbly character of Sophie – she’s boy obsessed and had a great fashion sense. She’s a bit wild and liberated; total opposite of Ever. Maybe that’s why they really matched up from the start. But there is really more than meets the eye on her character. I was surprised and hurt by the twist, but I know somewhere, that is bound to happen. Duh, a friend complication needs to arise somewhere. (lol) (I know I’m being pretty vague here, but I don’t want give out spoilers).

Rick aka Wonderboy is the Ivy League bound football player and Ever’s bane of existence. While I did not really like him on the first few chapters, Rick has somewhat grown on me, I guess. He was entirely just an okay character for me. Then, there’s Xavier, the sexy loner but a player character. I always fall for the dark bad boy types, so its again no surprise that I ended up rooting for Xavier. For some reason, I just enjoyed his brooding and mysterious character.

For the romance part of the story, you all know how much I hate love triangles. I was actually hesitant to continue reading when I felt that a triangle is approaching, but since I was hooked and I actually liked both parties involved, I continue reading. And I can say that in such a long time, this the only time again that I have honestly liked reading a story that involves a love triangle. (Yay me!)

The situations that these teens have went thru are pretty entertaining to read. It was like I’m there with them walking into the unknown. Though, there are times that it feels like the story tends to get all over the place especially with the Ever, Sophie, Xavier and Rick drama, I ended up loving that mess of complication.

The issues mentioned and included on this story are very relevant to today’s world. Family Pressures/Responsibility is one of the main topics of the story and as an Asian myself, I relate to this. Though, I was still given by my parents the freedom to choose my degree and other school and adult stuff that I wanted to do, the pressure that Ever’s parents were giving her felt so real and on point. Correct me if I’m wrong but parents especially Asian parents really tend to be dramatic and protective especially on the future of their children. I guess these types of parents are leaning more on the practical side of life that’s why they choose the way they do. The story also talks about several other relevant topics but as I write this review, I thought that they were somewhat brushed off. There’s a talk about leaked nude photos, cheating, depression – these topics were mentioned but I can’t really point out if they were properly addressed.

Overall, Loveboat, Taipei is one fun and enjoying book to read! It’s a whirlwind story of teenage romance filled with drama, heartbreaks, cultural and self-exploration and familial ties. If you are fans of contemporary reads with interesting and bold characters, this one is really for you!

4/5 Flower Rating

 “Rick and this summer gave me the courage to take charge of my own future. I can only hope that I’ve done the same for him.”

“My parents sent me to discover my heritage, but in the process, I’m also finding parts of myself, even if that self isn’t who they want me to be.”

“And as I lunge and whirl my bo staff, dancing to the ancient drumbeats, I feel all parts of myself coming together: glad that a part of me is Chinese, a part of me American and all of me is simply me.”

Abigail was born in West Virginia to a family of immigrants: Her mother is from the Philippines and her father from Indonesia, and her grandparents emigrated to those countries from Fujian and Shandong provinces in China.

Abigail grew up in Ohio and graduated from Harvard University and Columbia Law School. She worked in Washington DC for the Senate, as a law clerk for a federal judge. and now in Silicon Valley in venture capital and artificial intelligence. She also earned her Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

In her spare time, she enjoys long walks with her husband and two boys, and hanging out with friends and over 100 family members in the Bay Area. She loves music and dances to it when no one is watching.

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Blog Tour & ARC Review + Giveaway: The Color Project by Sierra Abrams

Title: The Color Project

Author: Sierra Abrams

Published: 18 July 2017 | Gatekeeper Press

Date Read: 12 June 2017

Synopsis:

Bernice Aurora Wescott has one thing she doesn’t want anyone to know: her name. That is, until Bee meets Levi, the local golden boy who runs a charity organization called The Color Project.

Levi is not at all shy about attempting to guess Bee’s real name; his persistence is one of the many reasons why Bee falls for him. But while Levi is everything she never knew she needed, giving up her name would feel like a stamp on forever. And that terrifies her.

When unexpected news of an illness in the family drains Bee’s summer of everything bright, she is pushed to the breaking point. Losing herself in The Color Project—a world of weddings, funerals, cancer patients, and hopeful families that the charity funds—is no longer enough. Bee must hold up the weight of her family, but to do that, she needs Levi. She’ll have to give up her name and let him in completely or lose the best thing that’s ever happened to her.

For fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson, THE COLOR PROJECT is a story about the three great loves of life—family, friendship, and romance—and the bonds that withstand tragedy.

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble |  Book Depository  

I don’t know how to start writing my review for this book. Even after a week I finished reading it (and recommending it to my bookish friends) The Color Project still left me at lost for words. So, basically, I’m going to just gush all my feels about this book over this review!

The Color Project started out okay for me. We have our main character Bee who despises using her real name and lives with her loving parents and siblings. The first few pages felt familiar as to what your typical YA story would be especially that first meet-up with Levi.

“I notice that his eyes are a light brown, almost golden. And then I try to un-notice because those eyes are still looking right at me.”

Okay, that first meet-up was cute and immediately made me gush about Bee and Levi, but it was your typical YA first-meet. But then, as I go on to the pages, I was immediately sucked into this wonderful world of Bee and Levi and The Color Project and from then and there I was invested all in.

The characters that were introduced were all wonderful. I easily connected with them. I feel their every feel – happiness and pain.

I love Bee because she’s the sweetest. Though I might have disagreed on her decisions and actions on the latter parts of the book, I completely understand her. In all honesty, I see myself on her several times into the book – especially with her being a hopeless romantic, a book pusher and having a unique bond with her dad. She’s a very relatable character that was well written.

Levi is such a sweet-heart! I love how despite his young-age he accomplished a huge thing. I really admire his will to help people that are in need.

“The world spins, and I feel pain everywhere, and I die a little bit inside with every tear I shed, so that I’m left feeling like a husk, empty, ruined, devoured.”

It is hard to tell what happened on the latter part of the books without spoiling anything but let me tell you that it is complicated and painful. But don’t fret because everything will turn out okay and you will be leaving the world of The Color Project with a bunch of hope in your hands. The story is sad, yes, it is, but it was told beautifully.

“Who said you aren’t allowed to get lost every once on a while? I love you, lost or found.”

The Color Project is a story about different kinds of love and holding on to that love especially at times of unimaginable pain and sorrow. I love Sierra’s writing especially the way she has shown the authenticity and realness of the story.

Overall, I’m truly grateful to read this book. Hands-down one of the best books I’ve read this year. I had a great time reading this book. I laughed and cried but as I’ve said, I ended up feeling revived and holding a bunch of hope after. I can’t wait for all of you guys to read this as well.

At 7 years old, Sierra Abrams decided that one day she would publish a book. For over a decade, in between exploring other career options, she kept coming back to that very first dream. Now her life consists of writing books of all kinds… Kissing books, angsty books, killing books, whimsical books, and sometimes books that are all of the above. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, traveling, consuming sushi, or daydreaming about Henry Cavill.

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