Book Reviews

Of Chessboards and Melancholic High School Nostalgia: Ang Larong Nagwakas sa Atin Book Review

There will always be stories where you will find pieces of your soul within its pages, and I found mine in “Ang Larong Nagwakas Sa Atin.” I devoured this book in one sitting and as I turned to the last page, the story struck a chord within me.

So, what’s this book all about?

Mula pagkabata, buhay na ni Dennis Manansala ang paglaro ng chess. Dito lang siya siguradong magaling siya. Nang ilipat siya sa St. Louise de Marillac Academy o LdMA para sa high school, akala niya natukdukan na ito. Pero isang panibagong laro ang magsisimula nang makilala niya ang babaeng magpapaintindi sa kanya sa kahalagahan ng pamilya, pagkakaibigan, at pangarap.

Kinder pa lang, planado na ang buong buhay ni Esther Pamintuan. Para makapasok sa panagarap niyang university, mangunguna siya sa klase at magiging aktiba sa pahayagan ng LdMA. Ngunit nang hindi inaasahan, mapapasali siya sa laro ng chess at makikilala ang lalaki na magpapabago ng takbo ng mga plano niya.

Isang oras. Tigtatlumpung minuto sa orasan. Sa isang huling laro nakasalalay ang apat na taon ng pagsasamahan nina Dennis at Esther. Isa lang sa kanila ang magwawagi, gagawaran ng scholarship, at hihiranging Chess Player of the Year.

Sundan sina Dennis at Esther magbaliktanaw kung paano sila nagkatagpo, nagkalapit, at nagkaibigan



Perhaps one part that endeared me to this book was its focus on chess as the center of the narrative. Like these two characters, chess was a huge part of my elementary to high school years. I was sickly and asthmatic so physical activities and sports were out of the question for me so my father–who like Dennis’ father and Coach Michael was an avid aficionado of the sport–filled my days with chess training and we would even buy books on chess strategies on the weekends together with my younger sister. Like Esther, I was forced to participate in chess tournaments in my primary school and sports events in high school because I was “smart”. Chess made me happy I was trying out a sport, and I was comforted by the wooden chess pieces and the black-and-white squares on a 150 pesos-chess set my father gave me and my sister to practice with.

Like chess, the choices we make in life always influence the endgame and nothing will ever go according to plan, no matter how carefully you map out your whole life. This was a recurring theme between the two characters: Dennis and Esther, throughout the whole book and reflected in the many struggles that they have faced in the book.

In particular, I struck a chord with Esther because of the many parallels I shared with her: former honor student who is pressured to maintain grades to feel “validated” by parents, joining school paper as plus points for extracurriculars to make up for the fact I can’t participate in other physically-taxing activities, and using chess as a sport and a means to temporarily escape. Unlike her though, I wasn’t part of the varsity team (my little sister was the more talented one).

The book also explored the many struggles and worries of a high-school student: the impending arrival of college and making decisions that would help decide your future. It’s grueling, tough work and as someone whose been down that road, it’s terrifying. However, with the struggles also come the treasured moments of joy in between–kilig moments when a classmate gets serenaded with a group of guitar-strumming fellas, tears and confessions exchaged during a retreat in your last year, and the one magical night of prom where everybody is transformed and poised to dance to the night. This book was a whole nostalgia trip for me considering I also started my high school years around the same time Dennis and Esther did in the book.

The romance in this book was also bittersweet and cute, like most high school love stories go. I especially loved how organic Dennis and Esther’s relationship developed, and the sweet moments they shared. But most importantly, I was invested in how other external conditions (such as college applications, scholarships, family problems) influenced their dynamics with each other. I personally found the ending of the story very satisfying and well-wrapped up, despite the ache that it left my heart.

All in all, I loved this book so, so much. If you can understand and read Tagalog, then I strongly urge you to pick up this book and read.. Highly, highly recommended!

Overall Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟


What are some books that you read that felt like you found a piece of yourself within its pages? Have you read books about chess?

Let me know in the comments below!

Before You Go!

Recently, my country, the Philippines, has experienced the onslaught of 4 typhoons in a span of 2 weeks. I live in a region that was spared from the most damage, but hundreds and thousands of my fellow kababayans particularly in Luzon weren’t as fortunate. Please visit and click this carrd for information on how to donate and help. $1 is equivalent to 50php, and it will go a long way to feed one Filipino family.

If you are unsure and uncertain about which organizations to donate, Ate Shealea of Shut Up, Shealea is running a donation campaign where you can course your donations through her and she’ll be forwarding them to legitimate organizations.

Likewise, my university alma mater, UP Visayas is also accepting donations (for locals in the Philippines). More details linked in the pub below.

Blog Tours Book Reviews

Monkey Kings, Kickass Sibs, and a Descent Into Hell: The Fallen Hero Book Review + Favorite Quotes + Outfit Inspiration (#FallenHeroTour)

Coming back to the world of a book series you’ve utterly loved feels like being welcomed back into another home and that is exactly how I felt reading The Fallen Hero by Katie Zhao.

I’ve got the chance to read The Dragon Warrior last year and I thoroughly enjoyed my first foray into Faryn Liu’s world of Chinese gods, monsters and dragons, so I was definitely looking forward to the next installment of the book series!

Before we begin, many thanks to Caffeine Book Tours and Bloomsbury Kids for granting me the opportunity to be able to read an Advance Reading Copy of The Fallen Hero!

So, what’s this book all about?

Faryn Liu thought she was the Heaven Breaker, a warrior destined to wield the all-powerful spear Fenghuang, command dragons, and defeat demons. But a conniving goddess was manipulating her all along…and her beloved younger brother, Alex, has betrayed her and taken over as the Heaven Breaker instead. Alex never forgave the people who treated him and Faryn like outcasts, and now he wants to wipe out both the demons and most of humanity.

Determined to prevent a war and bring Alex back to her side, Faryn and her half-dragon friend Ren join the New Order, a group of warriors based out of Manhattan’s Chinatown. She learns that one weapon can stand against Fenghuang–the Ruyi Jingu Bang. Only problem? It belongs to an infamous trickster, the Monkey King.

Faryn sets off on a daring quest to convince the Monkey King to join forces with her, one that will take her to new places–including Diyu, otherwise known as the Underworld–where she’ll run into new dangers and more than one familiar face. Can she complete her mission and save the brother she loves, no matter the cost?

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound | Goodreads


The story takes place 6 months after the events of The Dragon Warrior, and Faryn is thrust into a new society, with people who are wary of her and Ren, the remains of the ragtag team that they assembled back in the first book.

Compared to the first book, the stakes are raised higher this time, with an impending war between the gods and the demons, with the future of humanity hanging in the balance. Faryn’s dealing with a lot this time–her unexpected reunion with her father, her estranged relationship with her brother Alex who betrayed her, and the feeling of not knowing who to trust in the new society that took her in. Enter a new quest, new allies, some unexpected reunions, and one rowdy Monkey King–Faryn’s definitely got her work (and her luck) cut out for her this time.

Packed with more action and scheming from where its predecessor left off, The Fallen Hero gives its readers a fresh new take on characters and figures from Chinese mythology.

This second installment introduces us to Sun Wukong–the Monkey King–that Faryn and her new crew has to convince to join the fight against the gods. We also get submerged into the world of Diyu, the realm of Hell. I really commend Katie Zhao’s writing style as it seamlessly integrates them into the story, giving them a refreshing rebrand that is equal parts witty, humorous, and informative.

I also like how the story explores the dilemmas and struggles that Faryn experiences in the wake of her brother’s betrayal, feeling defeated and lost in foreign company, but with her determination to set things right and reunite her family once more, she resolves herself to pursue this new quest, even without the power of Fenghuang. I also liked how Faryn became more developed as a character, this time taking her time to think before rushing brashly into any danger.

Perhaps one qualm that kind of held me back from giving this a full score of 5 is the fact that there were so many things and revelations happening all at once, that I became quite lost. There were a few side quests that deviated my attention and made me momentarily forget what the main conflict was, and the attention devoted to it was short-lived as the plot needed to advance to the next major acts of the book.

Other than that, The Fallen Hero successfully delivers the same action-packed, witty, goodness that made me fall in love with this series in the first place. It emphasizes the value of family, celebrating your individuality, and becoming your own hero. With all the revelations that happened in this book, I am hanging on the edge of my seat to see where Faryn and the rest of the crew take this story in the next book.

Overall Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

An advanced reading copy was provided by Bloomsbury Publishing in partnership with Caffeine Book Tours to the blogger in exchange for an honest review. All quotes used in this post are subject to final revisions in the finished copy. All opinions are my own.

Favorite Quotes

🐉 “They both have, ah, slightly evil tendencies. Therapy didn’t help.”

🐉 “Nothing to see here, colonizers.”

🐉 “Give me oolong or give me death!” (This is a Mood. Definitely me, without a drop of tea in my system to start the day 😂)

🐉 “Little brothers are the worst. One moment, they’re breaking your dolls. Next moment, they’re plotting world domination and destroying you.”

About the Author

Katie Zhao is a 2017 graduate of the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English and Political Science, and a 2018 Masters of Accounting at the same university. She is the author of Chinese #ownvoices middle grade fantasy THE DRAGON WARRIOR (Bloomsbury Kids, October 2019 & 2020), as well as a young adult author. She is a mentor for Author Mentor Match. She is currently open to freelance editorial services for young adult and middle grade manuscripts.

Website | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter

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What’s a favorite middle-grade book of yours? Tell me in the comments below~!

Blog Tours Book Reviews

Monsters, Mages, and Mayhem: The Ikessar Falcon Book Review + Quote Graphics (#DethroneTheDragonlord Book Tour)

It is always with a mix of trepidation and excitement I feel whenever I start on sequels, especially if it’s with a series whose first book set the bar really high. Of course, The Ikessar Falcon wasn’t exempt from these worries of mine. As you all know, I have read and practically fell in love with its first book, The Wolf of Oren-yaro last year, and I highly anticipated the next book, but not with my own share of reservations as well.

Turns out, my worries were put to rest as K.S. Villoso continues to blow my expectations away in this second installment, back into the captivating world of Queen Talyien.

Hello, friends and welcome to my stop for the #DethroneTheDragonlord Tour! Thank you so much to Caffeine Book Tours and Orbit Books for kindly providing me a copy of the book and making all of this possible.

Book Reviews

Bone Constructs, Strange Creatures, and Kingdoms to Be Rebuilt: #BoneShardDaughterPH Blog Tour (Book Review + Quote Graphics)

It will always be difficult for me to word a review for a book I absolutely adored, so much that I often consider just leaving a bunch of yellow heart and sparkling emojis along with a series of exclamation marks, hoping that it would be enough to convey the intensity of my feelings for this wonderful creation, but no, we can’t have that, of course. Just like with every book that had captured my whole heart and my hapless mortal form, these sentiments are exactly what I feel for Andrea Stewart’s The Bone Shard Daughter.

Book Reviews

Decrepit Houses, Creepy Families, and A Slowburn Descent Into Chaos and Horror – Mexican Gothic Review (ARC)

The type of horror that never fails to scare me out of my wits aren’t the ones with the high-end productions with numerous jumpscares, nor the splatter-fest that comes after violence and gore.

It’s the slow, creeping kind that gives me nightmares for days. The uncertainty of is-something-there-or-is-it-the-wind, the quiet chills that indicate that something watches, getting ready to take hold of your mind and subject you to the worst scare of your life.

Mexican Gothic is the latter.

This is the type of book that from the moment you start reading the first page, you can’t help but finish it in one seating. It’s engaging and draws you in slowly, leading you to darker depths that you can’t emerge from unscathed.

So, What’s the Book about?

An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic artistocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . .

From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico—“fans of classic novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca are in for a suspenseful treat” (PopSugar).

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.


The book fairly starts out slow, but it’s a pacing that suited the overall atmosphere of the book. With Catalina’s ramblings and cryptic note sent to the Taboadas, it helped mount the suspense, not enough to bombard the reader upfront, but rather it gives off the subtle expression that something is definitely wrong.

“…he is trying to poison me. This house is sick with rot, stinks of decay, brims with every single evil and cruel sentiment. I have tried to hold on to my wits, to keep this foulness away but I cannot and I find myself losing time of track and thoughts.”

“…you must come for me, Noemi. You have to save me. I cannot save myself as much as I wish to, I am bound, threads like iron through my mind and my skin and it’s there. In the walls.”

Noemi was a breath of fresh air for me. She’s one of the rarer characters I have come across that is confident, self-made, and challenges head-on to break conventional roles and stereotypes posed on women during her time. She was far more interested in the pursuit of knowledge not to impress a husband, but to experiment with what suits her fancy.

“But it isn’t like you should have to make up your mind about everything at twenty-two,” she thought

She knows what she wants and she strives to get it. Her father might describe her as “flighty, always changing your mind about everything and anything” and being “stubborn about all the wrong things” but to me she just comes off as a character who bides her time and cycles through different interests that might benefit her in the long run—such as pursuing post-graduate studies after attending university. I respected that about her. She isn’t the most likeable character but her dedication and motivation to rescue Catalina as they try to survive and escape made me root for her until the end.

Aside from her personality, I really liked how the author highlighted her fashion choices. As a big softie for dresses and anything related with clothes, I totally enjoyed going arts-and-craftsy with the Noemi Dress-Up Paper Doll (which you can also download here).

Art by Kelley McMorris

Moreover, the narrative keeps surprising me with a twists. Just when I’ve thought I’ve followed where the story is going to, BAM! It hits me with something else and takes me another way that I totally did not expect. It seriously creeped the hell out of me, and it made me mull over a lot of things (read: plagued me with nightmares) especially at 4 AM, in the morning.

All in all, I really liked this book. It definitely succeeded in evoking feelings of fear and unsettling emotions in me as a reader. This felt like a long, drawn-out nightmare, transporting me to another plane of existence, and when I finally turned to the last page, I came out of it never the same. (And oh, I’ll never look at mushrooms the same way again.)

(Content warnings: body horror, violence, sexual assault, cannibalism, racism, incest, graphic depiction of violence)

Overall rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

(An advanced reading copy was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review)

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Book Reviews

Warrior Queens, Scheming Court Plots, and Battles To Be Won : The Wolf of Oren-Yaro Philippine Blog Tour + Book Review

What’s better than reading a high-stakes epic fantasy with well-balanced characters, a chock-full of political scheming and ferocious warrior queens? A PHILIPPINE-INSPIRED high-stakes epic fantasy with well-balanced characters, a chock-full of political scheming and A ferocious FILIPINA warrior queen! This is what makes up The Wolf of Oren-Yaro and as one of the last books that I’ll be reading this year, it is apt that it’ll wrap up my reading year with this gem. As always, a MASSIVE thank you to Shealea of Caffeine Book Tours and Orbit Books for sending me an ARC!

Book Reviews

Love At First Bite : A Violet Fire Blog Tour + Book Review + A CHANCE TO WIN A $25 AMAZON/B&N GC!

October and November may be over, but the season for monsters and anything fiendish may as well continue into December for me as today’s post is all about dystopian vampires! Sounds like an unlikely match, am I right? That’s what I thought too, but Kelsey Quick’s A Violet Fire surprised me in more ways than one! Before we delve into this book, just a quick shoutout to our friends over at Goddess Fish Promotions for having me on this tour! I received an advanced reading copy of the book from them and all thoughts on this review are all mine~

Book Reviews

Dragons, Demons, and Chinese Gods: The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao Book Blog Tour + Review

Hello and welcome to my stop for #TheDragonWarriorTour! This was kindly organized by Shealea of Caffeine Book Tours and Bloomsbury Kids whom I received an ARC of this wonderful middle-grade fantasy!

Book Reviews

Lost Cities, Magic, and Stubborn Academics: The Immortal City Book Review

It’s September 19th and do you know what it means? IT’S HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY TO THE IMMORTAL CITY BY AMY Kuivalainen !!

Book Reviews

Runaway K-Idols, Kimchi and Unexpected Romances: Hart and Seoul Book Review

An e-ARC was provided by NetGalley and the publisher to this user in exchange for an honest review. All opinions stated in this review are mine and mine alone.

Y’all, I’ll start this review by saying, I have never read anything so fast before in my life until this book. I just put on a request on NetGalley because the story seemed cute but I did not expect that I would be more emotionally invested in this AND I WENT IN DEEP.