Book Review: Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

A couple of months ago (May, to be exact) my friend Cindy Pon published her debut YA novel, Silver Phoenix. It took me this long to get around to reading it, because I am a bad friend. But it was totally worth the wait.


At seventeen, Ai Ling should be married, or at least betrothed. But nobody wants her. A free spirit in a land of order and restriction, she almost prefers it that way, except for the shame it brings to her family. Soon, though, she has bigger problems than her social status: her father goes missing and she begins to realize she has a power that she doesn’t understand.

Thus begins Ai Ling’s quest, a quest to find her father and herself.

Aiding her on this journey is Chen Yong, a half-foreigner with major problems of his own, and Chen Yong’s charming, womanizing younger brother Li Rong, as well as a host of other characters. The story is a basic quest/journey tale, but set in a land of such wonder and mystery that you cannot help but be enthralled. Ai Ling meets gods and monsters, some of them in human form, finally arriving at the Emperor’s Palace to battle perhaps the worst of them all: the one that loves her.

The book is just… beautiful. It is breathtakingly beautiful. Cindy also does some fabulous brush paintings, and reading this book was sometimes like looking at one of her paintings. You can see her artist’s eye in the description, even in the language itself. The book also made me incredibly hungry. The food Ai Ling consumes is described in such loving, delectable detail that I could almost smell it wafting from the pages. Cindy is welcome to invite me to her house for dinner anytime. ;)

Anyway, a great book; you can order it here and I highly recommend you do so.

On another note, I have decided that Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, etc.) needs to be in charge of the movie version of this book, and he needs to get on it stat. It has the kinds of mysterious creatures he specializes in, and the type of strong heroine he appreciates, and the sense of wonder that he is a master of. Really. Miyazaki, get to work.

To end, one of Cindy’s paintings:

joy in spring cindy

The disclaimer: I feel like I always need to add this when I review a friend’s book, even though I’m probably just being silly. Yes I know Cindy, but that did not in any way influence the writing of this review. Except possibly for the part where I invited myself over to her house.

free book: The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

Another YA boy book. For free!


Sixteen-year-old Seph McCauley has spent the past three years getting kicked out of one exclusive private school after another. And it’s not his attitude that’s the problem. It’s the trail of magical accidents–lately, disasters–that follow in his wake. Seph is a wizard, orphaned and untrained–and his powers are escalating out of control.

After causing a tragic fire at an after-hours party, Seph is sent to the Havens, a secluded boys’ school on the coast of Maine. At first, it seems like the answer to his prayers. Gregory Leicester, the headmaster, promises to train Seph in magic and initiate him into his mysterious order of wizards. But Seph’s enthusiasm dampens when he learns that training comes at a steep cost, and that Leicester plans to use his students’ powers to serve his own dangerous agenda.

In this companion novel to the exciting fantasy The Warrior Heir, everyone’s got a secret to keep: Jason Haley, a fellow student who’s been warned to keep away from Seph; the enchanter Linda Downey, who knew his parents; the rogue wizard Leander Hastings, and the warriors Jack Swift and Ellen Stephenson. This wizard war is one that Seph may not have the strength to survive.

So, the normal rules apply. If you want it, let me know in the comments and I’ll choose a random winner. Shipping and handling’s on me.

A note: as this blurb says, it’s the “companion novel” for The Warrior Heir but I didn’t know that going in and it totally worked as a story for me.

Book Review: Handcuffs by Bethany Griffin

bethany_handcuffs1She runs out of the room crying.
Let me start over.
My mom runs out of the room crying.
Um, let me start over.

Bethany Griffin’s debut novel, Handcuffs, follows the story of Parker Prescott, an “ice princess” with problems. Her parents are unemployed and about to lose their house, the local high school blogger is spreading rumors that she’s a whore, her sister’s marriage is falling apart right on top of her, and–oh yeah–her ex-boyfriend came over and there was that incident with the handcuffs.

This ain’t Sweet Valley High, folks.

Griffin’s writing is taut and quick, moving through this high-school hell at breakneck speed as Parker tries to fix her life. I could not put the book down–it totally stole an entire Saturday from me.

While the plot is a good one—fast-paced, twisty—it was really the characters that grabbed hold and wouldn’t let me leave. They are exquisitely drawn, fresh and real. I loved Parker, and I was definitely rooting for her very early on. And I may have occasionally said “no! no! Parker don’t!” aloud to the book. Yes, that may have happened. Parker and her problems are easy to relate to–her everyday problems as well as her extraordinary ones. And the ex, ohhhh the ex. He’s mysterious and dangerous… and nameless. Throughout the book he is referred to only as “him” or “my ex-boyfriend” and so on. A cute gimmick? I don’t think so. It focuses the story on Parker. It’s Parker’s feelings for the boy that are important, not necessarily the boy himself. An interesting literary choice on Griffin’s part, and I think a good one.

So overall, I enjoyed this book immensely and I highly recommend it for the YA reader in your life. 

buy it here at

Disclaimer: I do happen to know Bethany, she is awesomesauce, but I didn’t let that influence the writing of the review; please don’t let it influence your reading of it.