[Book Review] The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

  • Title: The Poppy War
  • Author: R.F. Kuang
  • Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 (5 stars)

  • Synopsis: (Taken from Goodreads) When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

    But surprises aren’t always good.

    Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

    For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

    Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

    I absolutely LOVED this book. It was gripping, brutal and beautiful, and kept me hooked from beginning to end. It’s been a while since I’ve found something that I was excited to sit down and read, and truly found myself immersed in this world full of political intrigue and just the right amount of magic. It was believable and unbelievable all at once!

    I loved the characters, none of them were one dimensional and all flawed in some way or the other, blurring the lines between “good” and “bad”. Even our heroine is morally complex and I found her warring inner monologue particularly interesting, and at times frustrating… like GIRL, WHY ARE YOU MAKING THAT DECISION?! It was refreshing to read such an honest, unforgiving and unapologetic POV.

    I still have SO MANY questions left at the end of this, of which I’ll avoid because I don’t like writing spoilers in reviews, but I am very much looking forward to reading the next instalment in this trilogy. I will also most definitely be reading more into the history of China on which certain events in this novel are based upon. Please be aware that there are some TW in way of brutality and rape which some readers may find distressing.

    Overall, a very well researched and authentic politically charged fantasy novel, which I will most certainly be recommending to everyone!

    [TBR] August 2019

    I’m a little late posting this, but here’s the TBR pile I’ve set myself for this month (spoiler alert: I’ve already strayed from it… whoops!)

    The Confession by Jessie Burton

    I’ve now finished this one and thoroughly enjoyed it! I’m hoping to type up a full review later this week, but I ended up giving it 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

    Descendant of The Crane by Joan He

    I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while and after reading quite a few contemporaries recently, I think I’m ready to jump back into a good fantasy!

    The Candle and The Flame by Nafiza Azad

    I’ve seen a fair few posts raving about this one, so I bought a copy for myself a few weeks ago – let’s hope it’s as beautiful as its cover!

    I’ve also decided to pick up Women Talking by Miriam Toewes. I’m not sure how I feel about it so far, but it’s only short so it shouldn’t take me too long to finish.

    What books are you reading/hoping to read this month?

    [Anticipated Releases] YA Fantasy August 2019

    Happy August book lovers!

    It’s been a while since I shared with you the books I’m excited to be released, so without further ado, here are the books released this month that I can’t wait to get my hands on!

    The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen

    Release Date: 1st August 2019

    Magic, romance a fugitive prince and blood-thirsty queen..? HELL YES.

    The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang

    Release Date: 8th August 2019

    Find me a person who isn’t seriously hyped for this…

    Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford

    Release Date: 27th August 2019

    If anyone tells you I didn’t add this to my TBR because of the gorgeous cover, unfortunately they’re lying…

    I’ve managed to limit this list to just 3 titles! WOAH.

    But there are so many great books coming out soon – which are you most excited for?


    [Book Review] Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

    Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

    44913866. sy475 Synopsis: All Lina wanted was to be desired. How did she end up in a marriage with two children and a husband who wouldn’t touch her?

    All Maggie wanted was to be understood. How did she end up in a relationship with her teacher and then in court, a hated pariah in her small town?

    All Sloane wanted was to be admired. How did she end up a sexual object of men, including her husband, who liked to watch her have sex with other men and women?

    Three Women is a record of unmet needs, unspoken thoughts, disappointments, hopes and unrelenting obsessions.

    This book took my breath away.

    I’m not usually a reader of non-fiction, but something about this book caught my eye. The cover helped, but the amazing reviews which all of my friends and work colleagues had given it pre-release sealed the deal.

    Three Women is about, well… Three Women. Individual in their lives and stories, but all linked by an overriding theme: lust, desire, and the lengths we as women go to to fulfil those desires.

    Never have I been so utterly captivated and absorbed in a book as I was when reading this. Each woman’s narrative was unique yet equally as valid and enthralling as one another.

    Maggie’s story begins in her teen years as she is enraptured by her teacher, and we follow their developing relationship. Jump forward six years and we see her finally able to speak out as she realises how deeply it has affected her life and her ability to love another, as she confronts him in court. But how could someone as well presented, admired and appreciated as “Teacher of The Year” possibly do such a thing?

    Lina is a 30-something year old woman who married the “right man”, yet he won’t kiss her, touch her or have any kind of physical relationship with her. Their therapist tells him that it’s okay to not want to kiss his wife, he doesn’t have to if he doesn’t want to and it’s completely normal to feel that way. In a social group where all the other women are married, and to divorce would be a scandal, Lina feels totally segregated and torn as to what the best decision would be: to leave, and for once feel wanted and desired, or to stay in an unhappy marriage as that is what is expected of her, and best for the kids?

    Sloane is in her 40’s, married to a husband who worships the ground she walks on, and sleeping with other men and women so her husband can watch. Her entire life she has been told that she is a burden, all she wanted was to be loved, wanted and appreciated. The dynamic within this relationship is odd, or so would be perceived by her friends and relatives so she cannot tell anyone. To do so would have catastrophic repercussions.

    Each one of these women’s stories are unique, valid and gripping. Knowing that they are real lives adds a whole other element of power to the writing, and as I reader, I could identify with each one of their struggles even though their personal circumstances are so far removed from my own life.

    In short, every woman should read this book. If not for the emotional and empowering journey it will take you on, but for the thriller-like, unputdownable way that it reads.

    Honestly, I could read this book over and over again, every single day for the rest of my life.

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    My Year in Books… So Far.

    GUESS WHO’S BACK (back, back, back) AGAIN!

    Life can be pretty hectic, and paired with that, extreme fatigue and not knowing whether you can truly be a part of the blogging community when you don’t post as regularly as you “should”, well, it sure can get on top of your ability to write, post and even read.

    That’s right, I’ve barely read a thing this year…

    But do you know what? I’m coming to accept that it’s okay.

    So, as my first blog post of the second half of 2019 (or pretty much the WHOLE of 2019 if we exclude January), I figured I’d give a little update into what I’ve read so far this year, including the books I’ve started but yet to finish.


    Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

    Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

    This was the first book I read this year, and it set my year off to a GREAT start. I absolutely loved it and cannot wait for the sequel (Yes, I see you, lucky people who managed to get their hands on a proof copy of Girls of Storm and Shadow… I see you and I’m seriously envious…)

    Normal People by Sally Rooney

    Rating: 🌟🌟🌟

    I read this because of all the hype that surrounded it. I didn’t really enjoy her first novel, but this was a little better. It still took me ages to get through even though it’s short, and I didn’t really feel as though I connected with the characters or narrative in any way.

    Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

    Rating: 🌟🌟🌟.5

    This was the book included in Illumicrate, and I think that it’s the first time I’ve ever read a book from a subscription box within the month of it’s arrival… a feat. It was a mixed bag for me – it took me half of the month to read and only really picked up after the 200 page mark.


    Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

    Status: Unfinished, 27%

    Why have I not finished this book? I don’t know, but I got into a HUGE slump. As you’ll see in about 10 seconds time…




    Still nothing…


    My birthday month!

    But I still didn’t read anything.


    The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke

    Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

    What’s this? SHE READ A BOOK?! Too right I did. After being in such a long slump, I decided to pluck a random book from my shelves and see what it could do. It wasn’t life-changing but I thoroughly enjoyed it and it proved that I still have the ability to read. Hurrah.


    That’s this month, how did that happen? Where did all the time go?!

    Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

    Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

    This book was incredible. After hearing so many people talk about it, and being intrigued by it’s themes, I knew I had to read it. This is the best book I have read this year. Bold statement which kind of loses it’s impact once you see that I haven’t really read much of anything this year, but even if I had it would still deserve that title. I can’t wait to compile my thoughts into a full review for you all.

    The Confession by Jessie Burton

    Status: Currently Reading

    This is an advance copy due for publication in September 2019. I’m enjoying it so far – good news!

    Other books I started but have no idea when, and haven’t finished them:

    How To Fail by Elizabeth Day

    Notes To Self by Emilie Pine

    Everything You Ever Wanted by Luiza Sauma

    I was enjoying these, believe it or not, but I picked them up during the great slump of 2019 so unfortunately by no fault of their own, they got abandoned.

    I bet you’re all wondering where I’m at with my Goodreads Reading Challenge…

    To be honest, I’m ignoring it at the moment, and haven’t even really been using Goodreads all that much as of late. For now, I’d like to just start enjoying reading again rather than worrying about how many books I have or haven’t read in comparison to everyone else.


    Thank you to those who have reminded me of that recently. I’m here now because of you.

    [Wrap-Up] January 2019

    I’m actually a little scared about how quickly this month has gone… is this a sign of getting old? Can it stop though? I have too much to read for time to be passing this quickly!

    I managed to read 3 books this month, which wasn’t quite as much as I had hoped, but much better than my average month last year – progress!

    I actually had a few non-reading days this month, which I’m annoyed at myself for because for the most part it was just because I was too lazy! Probably could have finished my TBR for the month if I had really focused, but nevermind!

    I still read some really great books this month, so here’s what I read and my thoughts:

    Girls of Paper & Fire by Natasha Ngan

    e7643b51-bb9b-416b-9de3-578fbab5e469-1.jpgRating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

    I LOVED THIS BOOK. My first read of the year, and a 5-star rating – what more could I have hoped for?!

    The plot was so full of action, I loved the characters and their relationships, and quite simply, I couldn’t put it down! A truly gripping read which I devoured in just 5 days.

    Read full review here.

    Normal People by Sally Rooney

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    Rating:  🌟🌟🌟

    So long story short, this book just wasn’t for me. I enjoyed it, but I generally just struggle with contemporary fiction. I appreciated the book for what it was: the writing was great and it felt very honest and raw, but I just felt like I didn’t really connect with it or care enough to feel compelled to read it… I don’t know.

    Anyway, I gave it 3 stars and I’ll write a full review soon.

    Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

    Empress of All SeasonsRating:  🌟🌟🌟.5

    I finished this book this afternoon and I have very mixed feelings about it. It took me about half of the month in total to read, which I feel is a long time for a book of less than 400 pages… it just didn’t quite flow and I found the multiple perspectives jarring, especially as most of the characters weren’t that likeable. Saying that though, I really started to enjoy it after the 200 page mark.

    Full review to come soon.

    What books did you read this month?

    [Beat The Backlist] Book Series I Need To Finish in 2019

    How many book series have you left half unfinished? For me, I’ve actually managed to get through a fair chunk of the ones which I had started, so I’m only left with a few! But there are still some series which I am yet to complete.

    This list doesn’t include book series which I am yet to start, only those where I have read the first book and the next book has already been released.

    Six of Crows (Duology) by Leigh Bardugo

    I feel like I’m really ashamed that this is actually something I have to admit to… but I haven’t read Crooked Kingdom yet. I read Six of Crows nearly 2 years ago, and the Grisha Trilogy last year, but for some reason I just never came back to Crooked Kingdom. I’ll rectify this soon, I promise.

    Red Queen (Series) by Victoria Aveyard

    I think it has been over 2 years since I read the first book in this series, and I did actually really enjoy it! The mixed reviews for Glass Sword put me off a little, but I’ve heard that the series picks up again, so I’m hoping to give it another go later this year. I still remember the first book quite vividly, so I don’t think I’ll need to re-read.

    Nevermoor (Series) by Jessica Townsend

    So only the first 2 books have been released so far, but I loved Nevermoor so much and was so hyped about the release of Wundersmith last year, that it’s a crime I haven’t read it yet! I need to catch up on Morrigan’s shenanigans ASAP!

    That’s it!

    I know what you’re thinking, this list isn’t really very long? Well yes, you’re right, there is only a total of 5 books left to read here. However. Wait until you see the list of series I want to start this year… this list is just going to keep on growing…

    Which book series do you hope to finish/catch up on this year?

    Beat The Backlist is hosted by Novel Knight

    [Reading Challenge] 2019 Reading Goals

    So 2018 was a little disappointing for me and my reading goals.

    I didn’t make my goodreads challenge. I originally set a goal of 50 books, but when October came around and I hadn’t even reached 20, I decided to lower it to 25. I finished on 23.

    Throughout the year I had several reading slumps, and I also got a big promotion at work which took up a lot of my time towards the end of the year.


    This year I have set a goal of 25 from the offset. Achievable. Manageable. Realistic.

    I want to read as many amazing books at possible. I’m not going to try and read something just because it’s hyped or pressure myself into reading proofs for reviews. Of course I’ll still do that, but I’m going to be more selective.

    I’ll also be taking part in Beat The Backlist to try and knock off those book which have been sat on my shelves for longer than they probably should have done…

    So fingers crossed this year I’ll read some incredible books, and reach that all important Goodreads goal!

    What reading goals have you set for yourself this year?

    See what I’m hoping to read this month in my January TBR.

    [2018 Wrap-Up] 5-Star Reads

    So I’m a little behind in my 2018 wrap-up series, but I really wanted to post this one, as I read some really great books in 2018.

    My reading for this year has already started off really well: my first read was a 5-Star review! So let’s recap on those books which I gave the coveted 5/5 rating in 2018…

    Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone

    This was my first read of 2018, and a wonderful middle-grade fantasy.

    It takes place in a land called Erkenwald, which was created by the Sky Gods. However, the smallest star gets jealous and decides to claim the land as her own, lacing it with dark magic and capturing a young girl called Eska in a music box, as her voice holds a power which can either destroy or save the world… CUE ADVENTURE. Its brilliant.

    Read my full review here.

    A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

    The gripping finale to the Darker Shade of Magic series.

    So many twists.

    So many turns.

    So many precious Cinnamon rolls that needed protecting…

    Read my full *spoiler free* review here.

    Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

    So I’ve heard many mixed opinions on this book, but personally, I loved it. It has music, beautiful descriptions, intense romance and a goblin underworld… cool, right?!

    I absolutely flew through this book, although I have to say I wasn’t a huge fan of the second book. But to be honest, you don’t even need to read the second one to feel like you’ve got everything out of this story.

    I was rubbish at keeping on top of reviews last year, so I don’t have one for this book I’m afraid…

    Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

    This book was SO. MUCH. FUN.

    The world is whimsical, intriguing and there are so many fun characters that I just loved reading about.

    Morrigan is cursed and doomed to die on her 11th birthday. Or so she thought… until she gets whisked away to a land called Nevermoor, where she will discover her true destiny.

    I really should have written a review for this(?!)

    Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

    Told from 3 oppressed women’s perspectives and set in a Wintery 18th century (ish) Russia, we are spun a tale of strength, independence and courage.

    A loose Rumplestiltskin re-telling, this book is magical and brilliantly written.

    This book is dark and twisty, and full of political intrigue. It was wonderfully clever.

    (No review to link again… wow I suck.)

    Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas

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    Not into the whole super-hero thing?

    Me neither, but this series seems to be hitting the mark for me!

    So far I’ve read both this one and Wonder Woman by Leigh Bardugo, and both got 5 star ratings from me!

    Did I write a review? Who are we kidding…


    The Binding by Bridget Collins

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    I am obsessed with this book.

    It is incredible.

    One of the best books I’ve read in so long, and I’ve not stopped talking about it to people. My poor non-reader friends are being forced to listen to me too…

    I can’t of much else to say other than READ MY REVIEW because I actually wrote one!


    Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

    It’s no surprise to me that multiple Sarah J. Maas books have ended up on this list. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be…

    Tower of Dawn was, in my opinion, the best book in the entire Throne of Glass series.

    I’m not sure I can even explain why, but I loved the new characters, the Torre and all the dark goings on, and oh boy, the romance. DEAD.


    Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

    The epic finale.

    Not only to the Throne of Glass series, but also the last 5-star book that I read in 2018.

    This was such an epic conclusion to the series, and I still don’t think I’ve fully recovered from all that death…

    I will be writing a review for this one before this month is out. You can count on it.

    So that’s it, all of my 5-star reads of 2018 in one place! A whole NINE of them! Shame we couldn’t quite make it 10, though I did have a couple of very close 4.5 rated books.

    There’s always this year…


    [Book Review] Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

    Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

    39898847Synopsis: Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most cruel.

    But this year, there’s a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

    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.

    TW: violence and sexual abuse.

    Could there have been a better book to open my 2019 reading? Absolutely not.

    This book, in my opinion, was perfection.

    An Asian fantasy with oppressed, abused young women who step up and take their lives back, even in the most dire of situations, with a beautiful f/f relationship, this book had everything I love in fantasy. It was thoroughly entertaining and had me gripped to its pages from the very beginning – I honestly didn’t want to put it down! It’s a shame I only have time to read on my commute, because otherwise I think I would have read it in one sitting.

    I loved the social system:

    • Paper Caste: Fully Human
    • Steel Caste: Half Human, Half Demon
    • Moon Case: Fully Demon

    This provided a class system away from race and nationality, but brought an equivalent that we can compare to in the real world. Paper Caste are seen as the lowest in society, oppressed and discriminated against highly by the Moon Caste. Some in the Paper Caste submitted to this, and others did not…

    The thing I loved most about this book was the wide variety of characters; their personalities and backgrounds painted a technicolor rainbow, and it was a delight to read about each one of these women. One of my particular favourites was Lill, the young Steel Caste maid assigned to look after Lei in Paper House. She was bubbly, naive and witty, and honestly made me laugh out loud on several occasions. Her energy translated onto the page beautifully.

    I have to say that I thought this book was incredibly well-written. The character developments were terrific, and the only thing I can ask of in the next instalment to the series, is even more world building. Whilst we got enough for this book to work, I would ideally like this to be built upon even more to create an fully immersive world, complete with all of the crazy politics and intriguing magic system that we started to get a sense of in this book.

    I have so many questions left to be answered.


    I sure do hope we don’t have to wait too long for Book 2!

    I’m so glad I decided to open 2019 with this book, my only regret is that I didn’t read it when it was first published!