Girls of Storm & Shadow (Girls of Paper & Fire #2) by Natasha Ngan

After fleeing from the Hidden Palace, Lei and Wren are now faced with finding allies for the upcoming war. Even after finding freedom, new problems threaten their lives and their relationship at every turn.

Fantasy, 403 pages, published in 2019

After fleeing from the Hidden Palace, Lei and Wren are now faced with finding allies for the upcoming war. Even after finding freedom, new problems threaten their lives and their relationship at every turn.

Spoiler Free Review:

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After finishing my reread of Girls of Paper & Fire, I was super excited to dive right into this book. It definitely has a different feeling than the first book, so it took me a little while to really get into the story.

This is much more of a travelling story than the first, which took place in just one location. I also got a little confused because I have a hard time picturing the demons. Moon caste are half demon, half human, but I kept picturing them as fully demon.

This is a language I understand. A language of pain and horror that I, too, have learned. That too many girls have learned.

pg. 116

This book heavily deals with the aftermath of sexual assault. Both Wren and Lei are feeling the aftereffects of what they went through at the palace and I loved seeing them open up to each other about it.

I was a little afraid that since Wren and Lei are together already, their relationship wouldn’t change, but that absolutely wasn’t the case. They go through a lot and have to deal with a lot, both for themselves and for their relationship.

There are a host of new characters introduced that travel with Wren and Lei and I really liked them! I wanted maybe a little more development from them because they felt like side characters.

…some wounds cut far too deep to ever heal and you just have to live with them, love around them, acknowledge their pain when you shift against their edges and then simply keeping on…

pg. 177-178

This book introduced third person chapters throughout the book. The first book and the rest of this book were from Lei’s point of view. I really enjoyed these scenes! They were a good insight into what was happening with characters we left behind. I would have liked to have seen these chapters in the first book, if only for consistency’s sake.

One thing I didn’t love was the magic and battles. The magic didn’t feel fleshed out enough to me. I was confused about it most of the time. I also don’t love battles and there is a bit of that in this book, which I didn’t expect.

I want a few things from the last book. I want to see more of Lei interacting with her dad and aunt. Her love for her family has been her motivation for a long time, but I want to see her spending more time with them. I also really want to see Wren and Lei deal with the events of the end of the book. A lot happened and they have a lot to unpack.

Overall, I still think I liked the first book better, but I’m invested in these characters. I can’t wait to see what happens in the third and final book!

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Girls of Paper & Fire (Girls of Paper & Fire #1) by Natasha Ngan

Lei is a Paper, fully human, and she lives a simple life working in her father’s herb shop when she gets brutally taken from her home in order to become the Demon King’s concubine. Lei and the other girls chosen, titled Paper Girls, spend their time in the court learning skills to please their oppressors.

Fantasy, 400 pages, published in 2018

Lei is a Paper, fully human, and she lives a simple life working in her father’s herb shop when she gets brutally taken from her home in order to become the Demon King’s concubine. Lei and the other girls chosen, titled Paper Girls, spend their time in the court learning skills to please their oppressors.

Spoiler Free Review:

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I read this at the end of 2018, so I wanted to reread it before going into the next book, Girls of Storm and Shadow. I enjoyed it back then, but I think I liked it more the second time around!

Both books in this series are the only books I’ve ever seen with content warnings. I don’t know if Natasha pushed for them to be in there or if it was the publisher, but either way, I am grateful. The warnings for this book are violence and sexual assault. The sexual assault was not brought up in detail and was not used for any sort of shock value.

The two things I love the most about this book are the relationships and the creativity of the world.

There are so many relationships between girls supporting each other and it’s just so nice to see. I also really like the romance in this. I think they compliment each other really well. The first time I read this, I thought their relationship moved fast, but a fair amount of time actually passes in the book.

In this world, there are three castes: Paper, Steel, and Moon. Paper castes are fully human, Moon castes are half animal (demon), and Steel castes are mix between the two. I can’t recall any other fantasy I’ve read that has a similar setup.

I also thinks this book subverts a specific trope very well. I feel like a book about a girl becoming a concubine for the king sets up the scenario that the king is just misunderstood and the girl will come to fall in love with him. In the book, that is not the case. The king really is bad and he doesn’t have any reason for acting cruel and vicious.

My least favorite thing about this book however, is the lack of lore. There are gods, shamans, old tales and magic, but I feel like the reader only hears about them when it is necessary. The magic totally eludes me, I couldn’t tell you at all how it works. I just wish that these element were woven into the story a little bit more.

I was really glad I reread this before moving on to the next book! I am excited to see where the second book will take me.

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I Believe that Books Should Include Content Warnings

I would love to see more content warnings in books, like in Girls of Paper and Fire. I did a little research about this, and it seems like there are so many reasons that people are against including content warnings in books. I have found some common arguments against content warnings and have explained why I think they are wrong or irrelevant to people that could benefit from content warnings.

This book is Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan.

I recently read The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See and I was taken by surprise by some of the darker elements of the book. If you haven’t read my review of it, here is a recap: the book goes into some pretty dark descriptions of violence, rape, and death and it put me in a pretty dark place. There was nothing on the book that lead me to believe that these things would be such a big part of the story, so I was completely unprepared for it.

This got me thinking. If I had known that this book had these elements, I could have either been prepared for them when they came up, or I could have decided that I wouldn’t have been able to handle them even if I prepared myself, so I just wouldn’t read the book. Either one of these decisions would have left me in a better state than going into this book blind.

I would love to see more content warnings in books, like in Girls of Paper and Fire (above). I did a little research about this, and it seems like there are so many reasons that people are against including content warnings in books. I have found some common arguments against content warnings and have explained why I think they are wrong or irrelevant to people that could benefit from content warnings.

CONTENT WARNINGS COULD GIVE AWAY SPOILERS

I’m just gonna say it: if you think a content warning for rape is a spoiler, you are probably garbage. If a content warning for rape is a spoiler for a book, that book is probably garbage. I try not to make statements like these, but sexual assault is never something that should be used for shock value or a plot twist. The same goes for violence, abuse, suicide, ect. These are vague enough that they don’t give anything away, but can warn and prepare people for the themes inside the book.

LIFE DOESN’T HAVE CONTENT WARNINGS

This is always a silly argument to me. No, life does not have content warnings, but other forms of media like movies, video games, and TV shows do, so why don’t books? Most people read because it is a hobby that they enjoy, so they should be able to make an informed decision about whether or not they think they could enjoy a book. If a person wants to deal with issues that affect them personally that could be in a content warning, they should have the choice to do it when are ready, not when a book springs it on them and forces them to deal with it.

IT’S CENSORSHIP TO INCLUDE CONTENT WARNINGS

Censorship is the suppression of any part of media. Content warnings do not change or hide any of the contents of a book, they simply let readers know that some dark or painful themes for some people will be mentioned in the book. Someone deciding they aren’t in the right place to read a book based on included content warnings is not censorship, it’s a personal decision.

I am absolutely in favor of more books including content warnings. It is so much better to be prepared for any difficult content in a book, especially when most content warnings are for things that many people have dealt with in their life. If you are person that doesn’t need content warnings, that’s great, but just because you don’t need them doesn’t mean that other people don’t need them either.

What are your thoughts? Are content warnings something that should be more common?

LGBT+ Book Recommendations!

Happy Pride Month! This is a perfect time to share some of my favorite books that include characters in the LGBT+ community!

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Synopsis: In this Snow White retelling, the relationship between Lynet and her stepmother Mina seems to be doomed from the start, unless both of them can change.
Why I Liked It: Aside from featuring a F/F romance, this book is a super unique retelling and the mother/daughter relationship is so interesting!

Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu

Synopsis: Vlogger and baker extraordinaire Bitty joins his college hockey team, and just might be in love with his team captain, Jack.
Why I Liked It: Bitty is absolutely adorable, as is the romance, and the friendships between the hockey team members are so good and supportive!

Simon Vs. the Homosapien Agenda by Bekcy Albertalli

Synopsis: Simon has not come out as gay yet, so he emails another boy at his school, both under fake names.
Why I Liked It: The romance was really cute and I love the email trope!

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Synopsis: With tensions on both sides of the world brewing, Ead must secretly protect the Queen of Inys.
Why I Liked It: High epic fantasy with an amazing F/F relationship, other diverse characters, and a super interesting plot and world? Sign me up!!

The Seven Husbands of Eveyln Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Synopsis: Hollywood star Evelyn Hugo is finally opening up her years in the spotlight, as well as her seven husbands.
Why I Liked It: Eveyln Hugo seriously feels like a real person and I could not put this book down! I don’t want to say too much because I feel like it’s better to not know too much about this book going in, but it does feature multiple characters in the LGBT+ community.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Synopsis: Twins Hazel and Ben live on the edge of a forest inhabited by the fair folk, including a faerie boy asleep in a glass coffin.
Why I Liked It: This is such a good faerie book and it also features a M/M relationship!

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Synopsis: After the death of her sister, Rumi moves to Hawaii to live with her aunt.
Why I Liked It: This book deals so many things, including grief, so it can be pretty heavy, but the main character is also asexual!

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Synopsis: Each year, eight girls are chosen to be the concubines of the king, but this year, Lei is chosen as the ninth.
Why I Liked It: I really enjoyed the F/F relationship in this, as well as the fantasy setting!

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Synopsis: First Son Alex and HRH Henry of Wales must pretend to be friends in order to stop an international issue, but along the way, they fall in love.
Why I Liked It: This book features multiple gay and bisexual characters, the romance was cute, and I really enjoyed the rest of the plot!

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Synopsis: While living in a very Morman town in Utah, bisexual Tanner falls for the boy who is helping out in his writing class.
Why I Liked It: This had an interesting setting and discussion of religion, and it was overall pretty cute.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Synopsis: After the events of Six of Crows, the characters are left to once again fight for their lives.
Why I Liked It: This book features a cute M/M romance and also the friendships between all of the characters are great!

What are some of your favorite books featuring LGBT+ characters? I am always looking for recommendations!