The Leopard Behind the Moon by Mayonn Paasewe-Valchev

Disclaimer: I received a finished copy of this book from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: The Leopard Behind The Moon

Author: Mayonn Paasewe-Valchev

Book Series: Standalone

Diversity: African MC and characters

Rating: 4/5

Recommended For…: middle grade readers, fantasy

Genre: MG Fantasy

Publication Date: September 21, 2021

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Pages: 288

Recommended Age: 10+ (some slight violence)

Explanation of CWs: some slight animal violence

Synopsis: There are three important laws in Ezomo’s village: Do not go to The Valley, do not go out at night, and never, ever, ever open the magical door that protects them all. But when Ezomo encounters the leopard believed to have killed his father, he and his two best friends embark on a journey that leads them past the boundaries set by their elders.

With his friends by his side, Ezomo chases after the leopard, certain that it has the power to cure all, and in the process he discovers the true history of his village, and that cautionary tales exist for a reason.

Review: I absolutely loved this read. It was beautiful in world building and the author did amazing to create the atmosphere. I loved the writing and I also loved the characters and how well developed they were for this being a middle grade novel.

The only thing I had some issue with is that the beginning was a bit slow.

Verdict: It was amazing. Highly recommend.

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Iron Widow

Author: Xiran Jay Zhao

Book Series: Iron Widow Book 1

Diversity: Asian/Chinese inspired side characters and MC, Poly disabled mc, Bisexual boys

Rating: 5/5

Recommended For…: young adult readers, science fiction, historical fiction

Genre: YA Sci-fi

Publication Date: September 21, 2021

Publisher: Penguin Teen

Pages: 400

Recommended Age: 16+ (Emotional child abuse, Romance, Sex, Death, Attempted Sexual assualt TW, Violence, Domestic violence, Gore, Murder, Language, Alcohol abuse, Withdrawal, PTSD, Anxiety, Organ theft, Sexual coercion)

Explanation of CWs: Emotional child abuse is shown. Romance is not the forefront of the book, but is there sometimes. Sex is fade to black, but some sexual acts are shown and mentioned. Death is frequent. Sexual assualt is attempted and shown in the text. Lots of violence and gore. Some domestic violence shown and mentioned. Murder is shown. Slight Language. Alcohol abuse and withdrawal are shown in detail. One scene with sexual coercion and organ theft is mentioned.

Synopsis: The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

Review: This book blew me away! I absolutely loved how well done the book was and how I so easily fell in love with the vengeful Zetian. I absolutely loved the Pacific Rim vibe and I think the author did amazing to bring Chinese mythical beings to the Pacific Rim like world. The commentary on how men use women to get what they want with no concern for them was well do and the writing of how women were forced into Foot modifications like old times made for a great comparison to beauty standards of today’s world, but more importantly made commentary of how woman are subjected to torturous practices for the ease and “betterment” of men. I also liked the “Handmaid’s Tale” (in quotes because the horrors in that book were real to many of our BIPOC women and female identifying people) like feel of the book. Beyond the amazing message behind the text, the story itself is amazing. The characters are well developed, the world building was divine, this was the first poly relationship I’ve read in books and I loved the trios dynamic, and overall I really fell in love with this authors writing. Expect to see a lot of amazing things from this author, they’re one to watch for!

To make things fair, the only downside I had was that I thought the book was going to suggest that family toxic relationships should be forgiven, something I deeply struggle with from my childhood, but I was surprised and elated that the book took a different turn.

Verdict: Highly recommend!