Review & Blog Tour: Jade Fire Gold by June C.L. Tan

I grew up on wuxia and xianxia dramas. From the little that I remember of my adolescence, I recall watching these Vietnamese-dubbed dramas with my mom, marveling over the grand adventures of martial heroes with magic and found family and martial arts in ancient China–The Legend of the Condor Heroes and Handsome Siblings are two of the most memorable for me.

Reading Jade Fire Gold gave me all those nostalgic feelings from my childhood. There’s ancient Chinese folklore woven into the world-building, forbidden magic in the hands of our heroine, a slow-burn romance that gave Zutara vibes (any Avatar the Last Airbender fans here?), a journey through desert and sea, and some heart-racing action. While there are some issues with pacing, this is a great debut for fans of YA Asian-inspired fantasy.

Huge thank you to HarperTeen and Caffeine Book Tours for providing me an Advanced Reader’s Copy to review for the book tour!

Synopsis

In an empire on the brink of war…

Ahn is no one, with no past and no family.

Altan is a lost heir, his future stolen away as a child.

When they meet, Altan sees in Ahn a path to reclaiming the throne. Ahn sees a way to finally unlock her past and understand her arcane magical abilities.

But they may have to pay a far deadlier price than either could have imagined.

Ferocious action, shadowy intrigue, and a captivating romance collide in June CL Tan’s debut, a stunning homage to the Xianxia novel with a tender, beating heart, perfect for fans of The Bone Witch and We Hunt the Flame.

What it’s about:

Jade Fire Gold follows Ahn, a girl with a powerful and forbidden magic that can change the fate of an empire on the cusp of war, and Altan, a fugitive prince on a path of vengeance, seeking to reclaim the Dragon Throne as the rightful heir. Their destinies are intertwined, but there’s a price for everything.

My thoughts:

The Chinese folklore and mythos, immersive world-building, and wuxia/xianxia themes were my favorite aspects of the book. It really brought the world to life and painted the characters and settings in such vivid colors. Since the romance was pitched as Zuko and Katara-esque (from AtLA), I have to talk about it (I’ve been Zutara shipper since I was in high school). Altan definitely feels like Zuko in this story! From his whole tragic past to exiled prince to reclaiming the throne narrative. His relationship with Ahn is enemies to lovers on paper, but there’s not a great deal of tension and I found it to be a rather sweet romance! They’re more like reluctant allies. I even adored the side characters–Tang Wei was my favorite. The found family dynamic is forever my favorite underrated trope.

I must admit, the pacing was a bit jarring at times, but it didn’t detract from the story too much and I’m excited to see how things may unfold in the sequel (there’s going to be a sequel, right?!). After that epilogue, I’m crossing my fingers!

We all carry burdens and joys of our past. Only those who chose to be blind to themselves forget what once existed and what continues to exist inside.

Jade Fire Gold

Content warnings:

Self-harm (gouging, eye horror; non-graphic), child abuse (physical, verbal, emotional manipulation/gaslighting), parent death (implied, off-page), character deaths, mentions and descriptions of fantasy/magical violence (blood, war, political violence), mentions and descriptions of physical symptoms that might be triggering to those with emetophobia, alcohol consumption.

About the Author

June CL Tan grew up in Singapore where she was raised on a diet of classic books and wuxia movies, caffeine and congee. After obtaining three degrees, she decided she had enough of academia. Thankfully, those degrees were somewhat related to telling stories and now, she resides in New York City, writing under the watchful eye of her crafty cat. Jade Fire Gold is her debut novel.

Review: XOXO by Axie Oh

Have you ever wanted to read a book that felt like a K-drama? Well look no further because I found the perfect book! XOXO encompasses everything I love about romance K-dramas—the feel-good vibes, the humor, the heartwarming romance, and the emphasis on family and friendships. In just a little over 300 pages, Axie Oh made me feel like I binge-watched an entire season of an incredibly sweet and lighthearted K-drama.

What it’s about:

At her uncle’s Karaoke bar, cello prodigy Jenny meets a handsome stranger who takes her on a spontaneous night of adventure—then he disappears without a word. Three months later, Jenny and her mom moves to South Korea to take care of her ailing grandma. There, her paths cross again with the mysterious stranger at the elite performing arts academy she’s enrolled in. He just so happens to be a member of XOXO, one of the biggest k-pop bands in the world…and he’s forbidden from dating.

What I loved:

This book was a pure delight. It’s full of heart and humor—and very reminiscent of the fluffy romantic K-dramas I used to watch (these days I’m obsessed with the thriller/melodrama variety). It reminded me why I love romcom K-dramas so much: they make me feel good.

The forbidden romance between Jenny and Jaewoo; prodigy cellist and k-pop idol, was adorable: the thrill of sneaking around, the Seoul adventures, the soft kisses beneath the twinkling stars. I loved it. I don’t listen to a whole lot of k-pop but this book had me pulling up those aesthetic hour-long k-indie playlists on Youtube to play in the background (I’ll have a playlist below)! The friendships and bromances in this story was SO wholesome. I’m begging for a spin-off. Sori was my favorite and I’d love to see more of her (with Nathaniel)!

“If cellists have fan clubs, Jenny, I want to join yours.”

Read XOXO if you like:

  • Lighthearted k-dramas
  • K-pop and idols
  • Forbidden romance
  • Korean culture
  • Heartwarming YA romances
  • Books that lift your spirits

Biggest thank you to Subtle Asian Book Club and Epic Reads for this copy!!


Do you watch K-drama? Or listen to K-pop? Share some of your favorite shows + songs!

Review: So We Meet Again by Suzanne Park

This is my favorite book by Suzanne Park yet. It’s more women’s fiction than romance (though there is a very sweet romantic subplot), and rightfully marketed this time! I loved the family dynamic and how the relationship between immigrant parents and daughter was written. It was relatable in many ways, and Jess’ character resonated deeply with me. If you’re looking for a heartwarming and uplifting read, look no further. Bonus if you’re a foodie!

Thank you to Avon Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

What it’s about:

After investment banker Jessie Kim is laid off for her supposed lack of leadership qualities, she returns to her hometown Tennessee, moving back in with her parents to figure out what her next move will be. To make matters worse, she runs into her childhood nemesis, Daniel Choi, a charming lawyer who seems to have it all. Determined to turn things around, she decides to revive her old Korean cooking Youtube channel. Her spitfire mother makes an uninvited appearance on the very first livestream—and it goes viral.

What I loved:

The mother-daughter relationship. The family dynamic was hands down my favorite aspect of the book, more specifically, the relationship between Jess and her mother. It reminded me a lot of my relationship with my own mother, especially since my mother is also an immigrant with strong views. At the surface it may seem like they have a combative relationship, but it’s a bond full of love. My mom also used to drive me crazy! But I knew it was because she wanted the best for me, as did Jess’ mom. She’s afraid of being a disappointment to her parents, but they really just want her to be happy. Jess is relatable in many ways in her hopes and fears.

Highlighting sexism + workplace inequality. This books highlights how many women and minorities are treated in male-dominated fields. These relevant issues are addressed in a realistic way. Right from the beginning, Jess is not only passed off for a promotion after all her hard work, but she’s laid off. To add insult to injury, three executives she worked directly with make racist and sexist remarks, calling her the “Asian worker-bee type”, and saying she was overpaid for a “female associate”, among other things. Park emphasizes the value we put on ourselves and the importance of knowing our worth.

Korean food. If you’re a foodie this book is going to leave your mouth watering! There’s also an Umma-approved quick kimchi fried rice recipe at the end which I certainly plan on trying myself!


Since Jess’ cooking Youtube is a big part of this book, I thought I’d share some of my favorite cooking channels that I often visit for recipes!

Maangchi: My go-to channel for Korean dishes! I was immediately reminded of Maangchi when I read So We Meet Again. It’s very wholesome and the dishes are delicious—there are also vegetarian friendly ones!
Cooking Tree: The most aesthetically pleasing baking channel ever. I love watching these videos but I’m terrible at recreating these works of art haha.
HidaMari Cooking: Aesthetics + ASMR. Watching these videos is a pure delight!

Do you have a favorite cooking channel on Youtube? Share it below so I can check it out!