web site hit counter Black Water Sister - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

Black Water Sister

Availability: Ready to download

A reluctant medium discovers the ties that bind can unleash a dangerous power in this compelling Malaysian-set contemporary fantasy. Jessamyn Teoh is closeted, broke and moving back to Malaysia, a country she left when she was a toddler. So when Jess starts hearing voices, she chalks it up to stress. But there's only one voice in her head, and it claims to be the ghost of h A reluctant medium discovers the ties that bind can unleash a dangerous power in this compelling Malaysian-set contemporary fantasy. Jessamyn Teoh is closeted, broke and moving back to Malaysia, a country she left when she was a toddler. So when Jess starts hearing voices, she chalks it up to stress. But there's only one voice in her head, and it claims to be the ghost of her estranged grandmother, Ah Ma. In life Ah Ma was a spirit medium, the avatar of a mysterious deity called the Black Water Sister. Now she's determined to settle a score against a gang boss who has offended the god--and she's decided Jess is going to help her do it. Drawn into a world of gods, ghosts, and family secrets, Jess finds that making deals with capricious spirits is a dangerous business. As Jess fights for retribution for Ah Ma, she'll also need to regain control of her body and destiny. If she fails, the Black Water Sister may finish her off for good.


Compare

A reluctant medium discovers the ties that bind can unleash a dangerous power in this compelling Malaysian-set contemporary fantasy. Jessamyn Teoh is closeted, broke and moving back to Malaysia, a country she left when she was a toddler. So when Jess starts hearing voices, she chalks it up to stress. But there's only one voice in her head, and it claims to be the ghost of h A reluctant medium discovers the ties that bind can unleash a dangerous power in this compelling Malaysian-set contemporary fantasy. Jessamyn Teoh is closeted, broke and moving back to Malaysia, a country she left when she was a toddler. So when Jess starts hearing voices, she chalks it up to stress. But there's only one voice in her head, and it claims to be the ghost of her estranged grandmother, Ah Ma. In life Ah Ma was a spirit medium, the avatar of a mysterious deity called the Black Water Sister. Now she's determined to settle a score against a gang boss who has offended the god--and she's decided Jess is going to help her do it. Drawn into a world of gods, ghosts, and family secrets, Jess finds that making deals with capricious spirits is a dangerous business. As Jess fights for retribution for Ah Ma, she'll also need to regain control of her body and destiny. If she fails, the Black Water Sister may finish her off for good.

30 review for Black Water Sister

  1. 4 out of 5

    chai ♡

    "A stressed lesbian medium fights gods, ghosts, gangsters, and grandmas in 21st century Penang" The alliteration alone successfully sold me on this book lol "A stressed lesbian medium fights gods, ghosts, gangsters, and grandmas in 21st century Penang" The alliteration alone successfully sold me on this book lol

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd)

    “A stressed zillennial lesbian fights gods, ghosts, gangsters & grandmas in 21st century Penang.” -via the author’s twitter ok so that’s just... everything I’ve ever wanted then

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lex Kent

    I enjoyed this one. I have not been having the best reading lucky lately so it was really nice to read a solid, good story. Cho is completely new to me, but I have wanted to read her for a while. I found her writing style quite engaging and I will absolutely be reading more of her. I have not read many books that take place in Malaysia but I just loved the setting. Cho makes you feel so immersed in the sights, people, and culture, that it really made me feel like I was there. I’m also a huge urb I enjoyed this one. I have not been having the best reading lucky lately so it was really nice to read a solid, good story. Cho is completely new to me, but I have wanted to read her for a while. I found her writing style quite engaging and I will absolutely be reading more of her. I have not read many books that take place in Malaysia but I just loved the setting. Cho makes you feel so immersed in the sights, people, and culture, that it really made me feel like I was there. I’m also a huge urban fantasy fan so I loved the mix of the two. In a place filled with gods and ghosts –that “normal” humans can’t see- our main character, Jess, realizes there is more going on in the word when her grandmother starts speaking to her, her grandmother who died a year ago. While the pace is a little slow at times, there is a ton of stuff that happens in this book and many pages fly by at warp speed. While I liked that there was so much going on, I think it was a little too much. I’m not going to sit here and list the bigger storylines –because of spoilers-, but trust me it’s a lot. I think Cho was trying to squeeze too much in so that certain things didn’t get the attention they needed to make a bigger impact. One storyline that didn’t quite work was around Jess’ relationship. Jess is having trouble coming out to her folks and she often lets down a very patient girlfriend. The problem is not the storyline, but that it never really went anywhere. The girlfriend character does not have a lot of depth, and they don’t seem to have a great connection, so it’s hard to root for them. Plus there are a few other things that remain unresolved, under this storyline, so it made me wonder why have Jess spend so much time agonizing over it? I think the storyline needed more time to develop, or maybe spend this time on something else instead. While I didn’t think the girlfriend character was developed enough, I thought Grandma and Mom stole the show. These characters were so well written and even had a few funny lines which helped since this book had some darker moments. I have to give a trigger warning for violence and attempted rape. The book as a whole doesn’t feel too dark, but there are some tough moments and quite a few physical fights. There is a little bit of a ghost and family mystery that I found to be quite compelling. There are two twists in this book that I did not see coming and I love when an author surprises me. The last third of the book especially just hooks you right in and you can’t stop reading. In the end I enjoyed this. It’s not perfect, there are a few bumps, but I needed a good book like this. Hopefully this is the start of some good book luck and I hope I get to read more of Cho soon. I would recommend this to urban fantasy fans, especially if you are looking for an interesting new setting that isn’t just America or the UK. An ARC was given to me for a review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    megs_bookrack

    **3.5-stars rounded up** After graduating from Harvard, Jessamyn Teoh, nevertheless finds herself broke, unemployed and still unable to come out to her parents. After her father's health starts to deteriorate, her parents decide to move back to Malaysia and Jess is going with them. Having grown up in the United States, the move will require some adjustment, but as Jess sees it, she doesn't have much of a choice. Now she needs to add the stress of a long-distance relationship with her secret girlfri **3.5-stars rounded up** After graduating from Harvard, Jessamyn Teoh, nevertheless finds herself broke, unemployed and still unable to come out to her parents. After her father's health starts to deteriorate, her parents decide to move back to Malaysia and Jess is going with them. Having grown up in the United States, the move will require some adjustment, but as Jess sees it, she doesn't have much of a choice. Now she needs to add the stress of a long-distance relationship with her secret girlfriend into the mix. It's a lot of pressure, so when Jess begins to hear voices, she thinks she may actually be losing it. As it turns out, she's not really hearing voices, plural. She's hearing just one voice, that of her deceased Grandmother, Ah Ma. When she was alive, Ah Ma was a spirit medium for a mysterious, local deity known as the Black Water Sister. Ah Ma's spirit is restless, unable to cross over, until she seeks revenge against a powerful man who offended the God. Ah Ma plans to use Jess for this mission. Black Water Sister was like no other Contemporary Fantasy novel that I have ever read. It was modern, magical, fast-paced and full of over-the-top family drama! I really enjoyed watching the evolution Jess made as a character. She was smart, intuitive and adaptable from the very beginning, but it also felt like she was holding herself back. Once she meets Ah Ma, even though the two butt heads in a lot of ways, that pressure made Jess grow and find a strength within herself that she didn't realize was there. The Malaysian setting and cultural background were so refreshing to read. That backdrop is an important part of the story and I truly became immersed within it. Overall, I was impressed with the complexity, nuance and fantastical elements included within this story. While this is my first Zen Cho novel, it certainly will not be my last! Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I truly appreciate the opportunity!

  5. 4 out of 5

    may ➹

    this really gave me the repressed queer Asian representation I needed rtc

  6. 4 out of 5

    K.J. Charles

    Absolutely superb fantasy set in modern Malaysia, as a Malaysian American lesbian finds herself haunted by her grandmother and then meddling in the affairs of gods, which is always a bad idea. Glorious dialogue, great characters depicted with deep affection as well as clearsightedness, magnificently vivid setting, and a twisty, unpredictable plot, plus a thrumming current of rage: at how men treat women, at racism, at how immigrants are abused, societal homophobia, capitalism, greed--there's a l Absolutely superb fantasy set in modern Malaysia, as a Malaysian American lesbian finds herself haunted by her grandmother and then meddling in the affairs of gods, which is always a bad idea. Glorious dialogue, great characters depicted with deep affection as well as clearsightedness, magnificently vivid setting, and a twisty, unpredictable plot, plus a thrumming current of rage: at how men treat women, at racism, at how immigrants are abused, societal homophobia, capitalism, greed--there's a lot to be angry about here and we are, and that engine of rage is at the core of the plot because it's what drives the god too. Really excellent. Do not miss.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    What a delicious, intriguing combination tempts the quirky mind of mine : zillennial queer heroine discovers her powers to connect with spirits and she also realizes the ties that bind can unleash the lethal power in this surprising, complex, Malaysian-set urban fantasy! Let’s meet with our heroine Jessamyn Teoh ( we’d better calm her Jess) just graduated from Harvard, has no idea what she’ll do with her degree, feeling confused without job prospects. In the meantime she finds out, they’re in d What a delicious, intriguing combination tempts the quirky mind of mine : zillennial queer heroine discovers her powers to connect with spirits and she also realizes the ties that bind can unleash the lethal power in this surprising, complex, Malaysian-set urban fantasy! Let’s meet with our heroine Jessamyn Teoh ( we’d better calm her Jess) just graduated from Harvard, has no idea what she’ll do with her degree, feeling confused without job prospects. In the meantime she finds out, they’re in debt because of her recently deceased father’s cancer treatment fees which forces them to move from the US to Malaysia where they immigrated from to unite with extended family. You can guess Jess is not happy with this sudden changes in her life. She has a girlfriend she keeps secret from her family and now she needs to learn building long distance relationship. This is the least she needs to worry about: she has bigger problems like hearing voices in her head. When she’s in the closet, she keeps hearing Ah Ma’s voice clearly. Actually she’s not only hearing her estranged grandmother, she can also connect with her avatar of mysterious deity ( a kind of goddess) Black Water Sister. Poor Jess becomes slave of her godmother whose plan is setting to score against the business magnate who did something offensive against the god and needs her granddaughter’s help. She can be persuasive by using her body without asking her permission and committing felonies. She can also play dirty by blackmailing Jess to spill her secrets including her love life to her extended family! So Jess would better negotiate with capricious spirits and help her delirious grandma for her grand scheme unless she find a way to control her body and set free herself from the claws of her! This was entertaining, smart, original urban fantasy deals with sensitive issues realistically including homophobia, racism, abuse, rape. Malaysian set - a reluctant young medium deals with spirits, vindictive ghosts, helping to restrain a dangerous power can destruct their world was brilliant. Well developed world building , enjoyable characterization earned my four sci-fi, twisty, addictive, mind blowing, far eastern stars! Special thanks to Netgalley and Berkley Publishing Group/ Ace for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest thoughts.

  8. 4 out of 5

    skye

    this review is just going to keep getting updated from time to time because i don't know how to articulate just how much this book means to me in one single session, so i'm spreading it out as i return to it over and over again :') a short review: When I first cracked open the book back in April, I was immediately captivated by the vivid temporality of its setting: from the daily rhythms that the characters go through, to the protagonist’s struggles that mirrored mine so closely that I nearly for this review is just going to keep getting updated from time to time because i don't know how to articulate just how much this book means to me in one single session, so i'm spreading it out as i return to it over and over again :') a short review: When I first cracked open the book back in April, I was immediately captivated by the vivid temporality of its setting: from the daily rhythms that the characters go through, to the protagonist’s struggles that mirrored mine so closely that I nearly forgot I was reading a story that wasn’t just meant for my eyes. I mean, how often do you get to see yourself at the heart of a book? On a narrative level, the way Zen deftly handles the book’s intertwining themes of family, queerness, and diaspora while taking us on a brilliantly paced and at turns downright eerie story about a woman who has the literal ghost of her grandmother living rent-free in her head is nothing short of masterful. As a reader from Malaysia, I can’t tell you how exceedingly rare it is for me to truly see the nuances of my life represented in the fiction that I read, which is why I’m always caught so off guard by the earnestness and authenticity of Zen Cho’s Malaysian-influenced stories. And while I have deeply enjoyed what I've read of Zen's ouevre so far, I personally reckon that Black Water Sister may just be her best work yet. pre-review: i haven't logged into goodreads for fucking forever because of my final college sem but i'm here to tell you that if this book isn't on your TBR yet, you need to add it now

  9. 4 out of 5

    luce

    / / / Read more reviews on my blog / / / small side note: I wrote a review for this book and ended up deleting it by mistake 🙃 so this 'new' review will be more concise. Having loved Cho's Sorcerer Royal books I was so hyped to read this...and now that I have, I am high-key disappointed. Whereas Sorcerer Royal is a fantasy of manners (a la Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell), Black Water Sister is an urban fantasy with a contemporary setting. The premise and cover for this novel definitely piqued my i / / / Read more reviews on my blog / / / small side note: I wrote a review for this book and ended up deleting it by mistake 🙃 so this 'new' review will be more concise. Having loved Cho's Sorcerer Royal books I was so hyped to read this...and now that I have, I am high-key disappointed. Whereas Sorcerer Royal is a fantasy of manners (a la Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell), Black Water Sister is an urban fantasy with a contemporary setting. The premise and cover for this novel definitely piqued my interest but sadly found its execution to be lacking. The central character of Black Water Sister is twenty-something Jess, born in Malaysia and raised in the States, who is going through 'I don't know what I am doing with my life' crisis. When her parents are forced to relocate to Penang, Jess follows suit. Her long-distance girlfriend is growing frustrated by Jess' indecisiveness about her future but Jess herself does not feel comfortable coming out to her parents let alone telling them that she has GF. Then, Jess begins to hear a voice. At first, she tells herself that it is the stress of the move but soon realizes that the voice belongs to her estranged grandmother, Ah Ma, who recently passed away. Keeping Ah Ma a secret proves hard, especially when Ah Ma drags her into a feud between a 'terrifying' deity, Black Water Sister, and a crooked businessman, who happens to be one of the wealthiest men in Malaysia. The story follows Jess as she tries to survive fights with gangs and supernatural beings. CHARACTERS Jess is annoying in spite of being largely nondescript. She has a vague half-formed personality (think generic America millennial) and she often does not act of her own volition (others make her do things or put her in situations where she is then forced to act). Ah Ma was entertaining at first, she definitely has some of the best lines but she does something before the halfway mark that I found problematic, especially how the story seemingly glossed over her actions. Jess' parents should have played a bigger role in the story. Jess' mom does get some page time but it did not really do her character any justice. The story wasted time on characters we know are not all that (Jess' uncle and the son of the crooked businessman). Jess' GF did not really have a personality. Her calls with Jess were few and did little in terms of her chararisation. I had no real grasp on her, she remains a disembodied voice at the other end of the line. Having flashback showing their first meeting, how they fell in love, and their decision to be in a LDR would have made me care more for them. WRITING Unlike Sorcerer Royal, which boasts a prose that is both elaborate and playful, the writing style here came across as relatively basic. The humor stemmed not to much from the narrative but from the occasional one-liners spoken by characters (most of them by Ah Ma or Jess' mom). The writing failed to engage me and because of this, I found myself skipping quite a few paragraphs towards the end. SETTING The novel's setting is easily its biggest strength. Cho vibrantly renders Malaysia, from its climate to its culture and languages. FANTASY The ghosts were intriguing at first but once we learn more about the temple and see the Black Water Sister the fantasy elements no longer grabbed me. The whole thing felt very anticlimactic. All in all, Black Water Sister was not what I was hoping it'd be. Still, I am sure that many other readers will find this to be a positively captivating read. I just happen not to be one of them. Cho remains a favourite of mine and I eagerly await her next release. ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    OK so this is giving me Ghost Bride vibes and I NEED IT

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ellie (faerieontheshelf)

    I'm not sure what exactly it was about this novel, but I loved it so so much. I very nearly rounded up to 5 stars. Maybe it was the way Cho masterfully evoked Malaysia, from the soup-like heat to the chatty gatherings of aunties to the local deities. Or maybe it was Jess' own character arc, balancing post-university joblessness and an unsurety of where to go next with being a lesbian unsure how to come out to her parents. That said, this novel was also very dark in places! It does have a fair de I'm not sure what exactly it was about this novel, but I loved it so so much. I very nearly rounded up to 5 stars. Maybe it was the way Cho masterfully evoked Malaysia, from the soup-like heat to the chatty gatherings of aunties to the local deities. Or maybe it was Jess' own character arc, balancing post-university joblessness and an unsurety of where to go next with being a lesbian unsure how to come out to her parents. That said, this novel was also very dark in places! It does have a fair deal of violence (death, physical abuse, one (?) incident of near sexual abuse), so heads up to anyone wanting to read. full review to come! > 4.2/4.5 stars

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rae

    This is everything you need to know about this book: it has a lovable protagonist that I would absolutely take a stab for. No, that's it, that's my review. PS. The first part of this book was confusing for me (which is why I initally rated this 3 stars), but I got how things work by the middle and by then the pace picked up completely along those pages. It's a very interesting story and I love the world in this story. This is everything you need to know about this book: it has a lovable protagonist that I would absolutely take a stab for. No, that's it, that's my review. PS. The first part of this book was confusing for me (which is why I initally rated this 3 stars), but I got how things work by the middle and by then the pace picked up completely along those pages. It's a very interesting story and I love the world in this story.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Janine Ballard

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 1 star I’m at the point now where I give every DNF one star, but this wasn’t a bad book. It just wasn’t one I wanted to read. Forthwith, my review: I enjoyed Zen Cho’s two books in her Sorcerer Royal series, with their lovable characters, whimsy, humor, and Heyer homages, so when I saw she had a fantasy novel set in modern-day Malaysia coming out, one that was initially billed as a third installment, I jumped on Black Water Sister. I’m going to crib the plot summary from Jayne’s review: The start of 1 star I’m at the point now where I give every DNF one star, but this wasn’t a bad book. It just wasn’t one I wanted to read. Forthwith, my review: I enjoyed Zen Cho’s two books in her Sorcerer Royal series, with their lovable characters, whimsy, humor, and Heyer homages, so when I saw she had a fantasy novel set in modern-day Malaysia coming out, one that was initially billed as a third installment, I jumped on Black Water Sister. I’m going to crib the plot summary from Jayne’s review: The start of the novel is a bit confusing as there is a lot going on. Jess and her parents have moved back to Malaysia from the US after her dad lost his job, partly due to the cancer treatment he had. They’ve moved in with his younger sister and her husband, relatives have descended on them, and Jess is surrounded by uncles and aunties all talking about her and what she should do with her life. Various tensions make things more difficult as Jess wonders what she’s going to do with her life now and how she’ll keep up her romantic relationship. She’s not out to her parents and worries about how they will react when they learn of her sexual orientation. And then she begins to hear a voice that sounds as if it’s near her or sometimes in her head. Yeah, that scares her. Turns out her dead grandmother has a revenge plan she needs Jess to help her with. Their family appears to have a talent as mediums for various gods and now that Ah Ma is dead, the god Ah Ma worked for is looking for another body to use as well as perpetually being mad as hell. Jess is a recent Harvard graduate but she is now rudderless and hasn’t gotten a job yet, so when Ah Ma’s ghost takes over her nighttime consciousness, she is unconfident and uncertain what to do. It’s clear that Ah Ma (the grandmother Jess’s mother was estranged from and whom Jess consequently knows little about) wants revenge on the contractor/gangster who is trying to develop the land currently used as the outdoor temple where Ah Ma, her son (Jess’s uncle), and their friends have for years worshiped a dangerous goddess (the titular Black Water Sister). But what exactly that revenge plan does not become apparent for a while. (view spoiler)[It was when the plan came out that I realized that Ah Ma and her allies are no better than their opponents and willing to go to any lengths, including using and betraying Jess, to gain their goal. That was also when I lost interest in reading further. The humor and potential for camaraderie in Jess’s relationship with her late grandmother were no longer in play. I felt an intense dislike for Ah Ma and her gang. (hide spoiler)] I didn’t like most of the characters involved in the main plot (some of the secondary characters, like Jess’s parents, were sympathetic enough, but I can’t say I felt invested in them). I did care about Jess but she was passive and I wanted her to have more initiative. I’m guessing she develops some later in the book but the hints at that weren’t enough to keep me reading. A big part of the problem was my expectations—I thought this would be funnier and more like Sorcerer to the Crown and The True Queen in tone, so it was a rude awakening to realize that this book was darker. Much, much darker. I wasn’t prepared for it so I recoiled from some of what happened to Jess. There was also a chaotic, out-of-control tone to the book that I didn’t care for. The Sorcerer Royal books also have a chaotic feel, but it fits the zany absurdities in that series better than it does in this context. The things I liked best about the book were the depictions of the Malaysian setting, culture and folklore, and the immigrant experience. I could relate (so much!) to what Jess experienced as a new transplant in a foreign country. I loved reading about her paternal uncles and aunties, not so much because I loved them as people (although they weren’t bad) but because they were interesting, distinct, and conveyed things about Malaysian society and culture. I felt immersed in Jess’s large family. The sense of place was phenomenal; sweat almost dripped off my skin as I read about Malaysia’s humidity and sweltering heat. That wasn’t enough to keep me reading, though. I quit at 48%. Earlier in 2021: This marks the 300th book I have on my "Want to Read" shelf. I just thought I should put that out there. I read about 50 or 60 books a year, which means I have five or six years worth of books I want to read. What do you call this disease? Aspirational book window-shopping?

  14. 5 out of 5

    charlotte,

    On my blog. Rep: Chinese Malaysian lesbian mc, Chinese Malaysian side characters, Indian American lesbian side character, Indian Chinese Malaysian side character CWs: violence, attempted rape Galley provided by publisher I have loved every Zen Cho book I’ve read, so obviously I was always going to want to read Black Water Sister desperately. And I was always expecting to really enjoy it (which I did). It’s a different tack to Zen Cho’s other books, in that there was a fair bit more violence and On my blog. Rep: Chinese Malaysian lesbian mc, Chinese Malaysian side characters, Indian American lesbian side character, Indian Chinese Malaysian side character CWs: violence, attempted rape Galley provided by publisher I have loved every Zen Cho book I’ve read, so obviously I was always going to want to read Black Water Sister desperately. And I was always expecting to really enjoy it (which I did). It’s a different tack to Zen Cho’s other books, in that there was a fair bit more violence and gore than I was expecting, but still a very good read. In Black Water Sister, Jess has returned to Malaysia with her parents, who’ve just been laid off work, and they’re living with her aunt and uncle. There, Jess finds that she’s being haunted by her grandmother, who has unfinished business which she won’t fully explain to Jess, and also the Black Water Sister, whom her grandmother was the medium for. Zen Cho’s writing has this way of hooking you from the start. You read one chapter and then you think, maybe just one more, and before you realise it, you’re halfway through the book with no desire to put it down. That’s pretty much what was the case with me and this book. I started it at work, in a 3-hours-of-waiting-around break, and when I looked up again I’d almost finished. Part of what makes this book so compelling is Jess. She’s a main character you’ll love from page one. The sort that you know you’ll root for from the moment they arrive. Basically, the sort of character that Zen Cho writes best. And her familial relationships were all great too (particularly with Ah Ma, because that was just truly chaotic at times and fun to read). The book also has a plot that sucks you in. Like I said up top, it’s a little more violent than I was expecting, so I would recommend bearing that in mind when you read it (especially since there is a fairly graphic scene where the mc is about to be gang raped, plus flashbacks to femicide and domestic abuse), but it’s so compelling throughout. You want to find out what’s happening, just as Jess does. It keeps you on your toes. All of which to say that when this book releases, you’ll want to be first in line to read it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    pipsqueakreviews

    A world of deities and spiritual possession set in Malaysia. When I found out about this book from Lex’s review, I felt almost obligated to buy a copy and read it, simply because this story takes place in Penang, Malaysia. I live in Singapore, an island next door, and while there are differences, there are also plenty of similarities between us in culture, language and food. So this felt right at home for me. Black Water Sister isn’t a romance novel. It’s a Southeast Asian supernatural novel wit A world of deities and spiritual possession set in Malaysia. When I found out about this book from Lex’s review, I felt almost obligated to buy a copy and read it, simply because this story takes place in Penang, Malaysia. I live in Singapore, an island next door, and while there are differences, there are also plenty of similarities between us in culture, language and food. So this felt right at home for me. Black Water Sister isn’t a romance novel. It’s a Southeast Asian supernatural novel with a lesbian MC. There is no romance in it even though Jess, the MC, has a girlfriend. The side plot is more about being closeted and coming out, something Jess never even considers seriously until the end. And the few times her sexuality is remotely questioned, she lies or sidesteps it. It's sadly a realistic response for many people in the LGBT community around here who find ourselves adopting the same approach with our own families, driven by family expectations and a culture of non-confrontation. Reading this still frustrates me though because lesfic is suppose to be a form of escapism for me. And I don't like the way she communicates with her girlfriend, who deserves a lot more. Jess is a Malaysian-Chinese who finds herself back in Malaysia with her parents for good after spending most of her life in the US. She begins hearing voices in her head, that she soon finds out belongs to the spirit of her dead grandmother. This leads her to explore a mysterious world of Taoist deities and spiritual possession, including one very powerful goddess called the Black Water Sister. This storyline is well-developed and sometimes unexpected. I'm not totally unfamiliar with Taoism. I have never heard of Black Water Sister, so I’ll assume it’s fictitious until someone tells me otherwise. But some of the other deities in the book are actual Taoist deities. There are other things that make the book authentic. One is the colloquially-spoken dialogue. ‘Manglish’, which is almost the same as ‘Singlish’ (Singapore) is an English-based creole with Malay and Hokkien (Chinese dialect) influence. The English however, is structured differently because ‘Manglish’/’Singlish’ follow very literal Chinese-language sentence structures. Another is the complicated way Chinese people address family members. There is no generic equivalent of an uncle, aunt, cousin, etc. Every relative has a specific title and Jess uses them in Hokkien. So in this book, we have Ah Ma (grandmother), Ah Kong (grandfather), Kor Kor (father’s sister), Kor Tiao (father’s sister’s husband), Ah Ku (mother’s brother), Ah Chor (great grandmother). Penang is a great place to visit, so rich in culture and the food is fantastic. I miss it especially now when it's impossible to travel.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Eilonwy

    Due to financial difficulties following her father’s cancer diagnosis, recent college grad Jessamyn Teoh and her parents move “back home” to Malaysia after 19 years in the US. But while she never quite felt at home as an immigrant to the US, Jess definitely doesn’t see Malaysia as home, either. Its unfamiliarity is further exacerbated when a ghost starts speaking to Jess, pulling her into a world of local gods and mediums — and an underworld of dangerous humans. Complicating things is that Je Due to financial difficulties following her father’s cancer diagnosis, recent college grad Jessamyn Teoh and her parents move “back home” to Malaysia after 19 years in the US. But while she never quite felt at home as an immigrant to the US, Jess definitely doesn’t see Malaysia as home, either. Its unfamiliarity is further exacerbated when a ghost starts speaking to Jess, pulling her into a world of local gods and mediums — and an underworld of dangerous humans. Complicating things is that Jess can’t tell either her parents or her girlfriend about what’s going on. She doesn’t want to worry her parents, and Sharanya will think she’s gone crazy. Equally difficult is that she still can’t bring herself to tell her parents about her girlfriend. First, shout-out to Doreen’s review, which made me put an immediate hold on this book. Doreen loved it because she’s Malaysian; I was drawn to it because I’ve visited Malaysia and loved the landscape, atmosphere, people, and language. (I greatly enjoyed reading all the tourist signage in both English and Malaysian, and was charmed by a model of “Batu-Batu Henge,” then mildly disappointed to realize what a prosaic name “Batu Cave” is when I visited that site and connected the words.) (Although “Mammoth Cave” (for example) is equally just a description … but I digress.) Jess’s family is Chinese Malaysian and speaks Hokkien, but they also use Malay terms and the ubiquitous “lah,” so the sense of place was very strong. I loved the setting of this book. But I also loved everything else about it. The first chapter is a little clunky — it’s essentially an infodump to explain Jess’s family history and why they’re moving back to Penang — but the story picked up steam immediately once that was out of the way, and never slowed down again. This was a perfect urban fantasy. It’s firmly rooted in the real world, but the supernatural elements felt completely believable. The “main character moves to unfamiliar place and strange things start happening” trope worked very well, as Jess has to navigate shocking experiences through a culture she doesn’t quite understand. (She’s all-too-familiar with the “where do we even start explaining this common-place knowledge?” look that’s frequently exchanged between her parents and other relations when they’re dealing with her.) The pacing was great; the tension stayed high. There was one plot twist I thought was a little too obvious, but more that took me completely by surprise. Right up until the end, I was biting my nails and wondering how on earth everything was going to be resolved (especially since this is a standalone). There are some truly terrifying moments, in both the supernatural and real-world plots. But even at the worst moments, Jess maintains a pragmatism I greatly enjoyed and admired. And then the final page made me burst into tears. I loved every page of this book. And I’m definitely looking for Zen Cho’s other books ASAP!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Montzalee Wittmann

    Black Water Sister by Zen Cho Wow! This was written so wonderfully! Jess moves back to Malaysia with her parents after she grew up in America and graduated from college. Her girlfriend, which her parents doesn't know she has, plans to move there to work later. Things get complicated right away. She starts hearing voices. She blames it on stress. The voice tells her it's her grandmother, her mom's mother. Her mom never speaks about her mom and says little about that side of the family. This grandm Black Water Sister by Zen Cho Wow! This was written so wonderfully! Jess moves back to Malaysia with her parents after she grew up in America and graduated from college. Her girlfriend, which her parents doesn't know she has, plans to move there to work later. Things get complicated right away. She starts hearing voices. She blames it on stress. The voice tells her it's her grandmother, her mom's mother. Her mom never speaks about her mom and says little about that side of the family. This grandmother also happened to die last year. It's a wild ride through ghosts, gods, vengeful spirits, family secrets, corporate greed, mediums, and social norms. It's got some brutal parts, funny parts, and educational parts! Black Water Sister is the name of a god that many fear with good reason. Jess learns this along the way.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shelley Parker-Chan

    Phenomenal. This is what it is to be queer and Asian. Zen Cho’s light touch effortlessly propels this beautifully-observed story about the ties that bind us. Magical and mundane, fierce and hopeful, Malaysian to the bone—this book is uncompromisingly itself.

  19. 4 out of 5

    gauri

    3.5 stars read full review on my blog! Black Water Sister reads like a coming of age novel with being haunted by your grandmother, evil gods and spirits, gangsters, a lesbian heroine, relatable Asian rep and family secrets. It was entertaining mostly, I loved reading about Jess's internal struggle and her character development. Ah Ma is a gem, she's so snarky and annoying at the same time. The banter between these two is hilarious. I mostly struggled with the pacing, felt like the chapters stret 3.5 stars read full review on my blog! Black Water Sister reads like a coming of age novel with being haunted by your grandmother, evil gods and spirits, gangsters, a lesbian heroine, relatable Asian rep and family secrets. It was entertaining mostly, I loved reading about Jess's internal struggle and her character development. Ah Ma is a gem, she's so snarky and annoying at the same time. The banter between these two is hilarious. I mostly struggled with the pacing, felt like the chapters stretched out too long at times but overall a fun and recommended read! Thank you Edelweiss and Berkley Publishing for the ARC!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Althea | themoonwholistens ☾

    lesbian malaysian-set contemporary fantasy with gods, ghosts, and family secrets was all i needed to know

  21. 5 out of 5

    Fanna

    ➵ so, so, so good. zen cho has this ability to sensitively string emotions with an intriguing paranormal plot line through a mesmerising writing that captivates change, love, and family in the haunting light of secrets, gods, and ghosts. i don't know if i would ever be able to write a coherent review but, rtc. ↣ listened to the audiobook on scribd ↢ ➵ really liked the order of the pure moon reflected in water so I had to instantly hit play on this audiobook. ➵ so, so, so good. zen cho has this ability to sensitively string emotions with an intriguing paranormal plot line through a mesmerising writing that captivates change, love, and family in the haunting light of secrets, gods, and ghosts. i don't know if i would ever be able to write a coherent review but, rtc. ↣ listened to the audiobook on scribd ↢ ➵ really liked the order of the pure moon reflected in water so I had to instantly hit play on this audiobook.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore

    My thanks to Pan MacMillan and NetGalley for a review copy of this one. A book with ghosts in the plot may not be my usual fare but what interested me in this one was its setting—Malaysia. I don’t think I’ve read anything set there before, which made me pretty keen to pick this one up. We meet Jessamyn Teoh or Jess, who has been brought up in the States and has recently graduated from Harvard (and is yet to find a job). Her parents have decided to move back to Malaysia and start afresh after havin My thanks to Pan MacMillan and NetGalley for a review copy of this one. A book with ghosts in the plot may not be my usual fare but what interested me in this one was its setting—Malaysia. I don’t think I’ve read anything set there before, which made me pretty keen to pick this one up. We meet Jessamyn Teoh or Jess, who has been brought up in the States and has recently graduated from Harvard (and is yet to find a job). Her parents have decided to move back to Malaysia and start afresh after having coped with her father’s cancer and other difficulties. In Malaysia, her father has secured a job with her uncle (Kok Teng)’s company and the family is also temporarily living with him and her aunt (father’s sister) Kor Kor, while things settle down a bit and they can afford their own place. Jess hasn’t had much contact with her mother’s family barring her uncle Ah Ku whom she remembers borrowing money from her mother. While Jess loves her family, she also has secrets from them, specifically her girlfriend, who is now in Singapore, something she feels they will never understand or approve of. Before Jess and her mother travel to Penang (her father having gone on ahead and started work), she begins to hear strange voices in her head which she dismisses but when in Malaysia, she begins to hear them again. Before long, she finds that the voice isn’t of her own imagination (or the impact of stress) but of her grandmother (mother’s mother) Ah Ma, who had passed on a year earlier. She learns as we go on that Ah Ma was a medium to the resentful goddess Black Water Sister during her life, and now Ah Ku is medium at the temple. Businessman Ng Chee Hin’s company is developing a property which will affect the land the temple is on (in fact he is trying all to throw them out), and Ah Ma wants to stop him before she moves on. And she has decided it is Jess who can help her do this… When Jess agrees, she doesn’t quite realise what she is letting herself in for. While Jess thinks she will simply be doing what Ah Ma asks her, Ah Ma has her own plans. To add to her troubles, the goddess herself seems to want something from her. Alongside Jess must keep up the pretence of trying to find a job (something which from being her priority has become a thing she can’t devote time to any more), and dealing with her personal life. We go along with Jess as she is immersed into a world of ghosts, spirits, and gods, modern-day greed, and also family secrets and stories. This was so different from anything I’ve ever read before; I’ve read gothic books with ghostly presences of course, also some stories featuring ghosts but none where our central character is one who can communicate with (well may be some of those from Eva Ibbotson) and even shares her body with a ghost. So it was certainly interesting as a concept, and also done really smoothly (in the sense that one doesn’t feel a disconnect with the events that are unfolding, or any of them hard to accept as ‘real’). I enjoyed seeing how the author explores the cultural relevance of gods, spirits and ghosts in Malaysia—it is a vital part of life for all communities there. It was interesting seeing how even immigrant workers from different cultures show respect to and even appease local deities, Jess’ own relatives who are Christian use their religion to protect themselves against their ill-effects but at no time are they disbelieving, and even the enemy, the greedy businessman Ng Chee Hin, who may be ruthless as far as building his empire is concerned, does not remain unaffected. [But the book doesn’t take us to explore the place itself as much—we do go round Penang, but the places itself are those associated with the deity.] The characters themselves have interesting and strong stories—each has issues they are facing and must face, and problems they need to resolve apart from the gods and ghosts. Through these stories and the characters’ interrelationships we get more of an insight into the local culture, family relationships, customs, celebrations (the atmosphere surrounding Chinese New Year, for instance), and belief systems. This for me also made the book quite rich. Jess’ parents have lived in America, seen success of a sort but have had to return and depend on their relatives which puts them in a difficult position. For Jess herself, both cultures (her adopted American culture as well as life back ‘home’ in Penang) are equally alien, but she tries to fit in while also grappling with her personal problems of finding a job and mending her relationship with her girlfriend which is strained. I don’t really know how I felt about her: I felt for her at times because of all that she has to go through but at others, I also found her a little annoying. Ah Ma is good fun but she has a lot of secrets and isn’t above deception which makes one not quite like her as much as one would have wanted. Overall I found this a very enjoyable read with an interesting plot and setting and a story that holds one’s attention (though there were some aspects that I didn’t enjoy as much, like a scene where Jess much face some thugs, even though she does connect with the goddess in a new way there). A solid four star read for me.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Leanne

    Wow, I loved this. The story is set in Malaysia, and revolves around Jess, a jobless, closeted Harvard graduate who is forced to move back to Malaysia with her family. She starts hearing the voice of her deceased grandmother, Ah Ma, in her head, and realises she has to help her grandma settle a score against a man who offended a god. I myself am Malaysian, and so much of the story felt authentic, from the way the characters spoke, to the culture, and even the family dynamics. My dad’s side of th Wow, I loved this. The story is set in Malaysia, and revolves around Jess, a jobless, closeted Harvard graduate who is forced to move back to Malaysia with her family. She starts hearing the voice of her deceased grandmother, Ah Ma, in her head, and realises she has to help her grandma settle a score against a man who offended a god. I myself am Malaysian, and so much of the story felt authentic, from the way the characters spoke, to the culture, and even the family dynamics. My dad’s side of the family is from Penang, where this story is set, and reading this book made me feel homesick. But nostalgia aside, this book is great. Jess is a fantastic protagonist: she feels so duty-bound to her family, she’s obedient and even-tempered, but she grows a lot as a character throughout the book. Ah Ma was my favourite: like any Asian grandma, she’s snarky and sharp, but also manipulative, aggressive and very, very bossy. Their relationship is incredibly entertaining, and I loved how they slowly developed a grudging respect for each other. I really enjoyed both their characters, as well as the other side characters. "If you overhear everything I hear, said Jess, "why would you need me to tell you what Kor Kor’s friends were saying about Ng Chee Hin?” “Sometimes I don’t pay attention lah. You think your life is so interesting meh?” I don’t know what I can say about the plot without giving too much away. It involves an angry god, mediums, a complicated family history, many evil spirits, and a dead grandmother inheriting Jess’ body. It is action-packed and endlessly entertaining, and I couldn’t stop reading. It also strikes the right balance between action and its characters: aside from her grandmother haunting her, Jess also struggles to adapt to living in Malaysia, feeling horribly out of place as a closeted young woman who has spent her entire life in America. She wasn’t Malaysian or American. Just as she wasn’t straight but she definitely wasn’t gay, if anyone was asking. She wasn’t her family’s Min, but she wasn’t the Jess who’d had a life under that name, before her dad had gotten sick. Her beautiful life, with her beautiful girlfriend, her friends, her creative projects, her ambitions. It all seemed far away now. No wonder Ah Ma had found it easy to get into her head. She was a walking nothing—a hole in the universe, perfect for letting the dead through. In short, this is an excellent book and I’m glad to have finally found a Malaysian-inspired book that I really enjoyed. Highly recommended.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kristina (heartsfullofreads)

    This is my first Zen Cho book and it was kind of a mixed bag for me. I'll start with what I liked. The Malaysian setting was refreshing and the story itself was so culturally immersive. I really like stories that focus on grandmother/granddaughter relationships so that was a highlight for me. I also think a lot of people will really appreciate the LGBTQIA+ rep in this story and feel seen. Unfortunately, I just wasn't drawn in by the plot of this book. It just really missed the mark for me. I als This is my first Zen Cho book and it was kind of a mixed bag for me. I'll start with what I liked. The Malaysian setting was refreshing and the story itself was so culturally immersive. I really like stories that focus on grandmother/granddaughter relationships so that was a highlight for me. I also think a lot of people will really appreciate the LGBTQIA+ rep in this story and feel seen. Unfortunately, I just wasn't drawn in by the plot of this book. It just really missed the mark for me. I also would have loved more in depth information about the fantasy elements in the story. Overall, it was an interesting read. If you are looking for an own voices, contemporary Asian fantasy, give this one a try. Standalone books a rare find in the genre.

  25. 4 out of 5

    jut

    a poc medium in a mess situation? well i know all about it more than i wanted to, jess handled everything so well, im proud of her!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Veronique

    4.25* “You can bargain with anybody, spirit or human. All you need to know is what do they want and what are they scared of. That's all.” Jessamyn Teoh is finding her ‘return’ to Malaysia a cultural shock, especially since she was brought up in the U.S., and she hasn’t found the courage yet to come out to her parents. If this wasn’t enough, her dead grandmother is haunting her and forcing her to meddle with gods’ affairs... Didn’t know much about this fantasy set in Malaysia and that made it the m 4.25* “You can bargain with anybody, spirit or human. All you need to know is what do they want and what are they scared of. That's all.” Jessamyn Teoh is finding her ‘return’ to Malaysia a cultural shock, especially since she was brought up in the U.S., and she hasn’t found the courage yet to come out to her parents. If this wasn’t enough, her dead grandmother is haunting her and forcing her to meddle with gods’ affairs... Didn’t know much about this fantasy set in Malaysia and that made it the more enjoyable. Zen Cho creates an intriguing story, one that you’re not entirely sure where it is leading you. All of it however was fascinating, and even a couple of times seriously creepy (to me).

  27. 4 out of 5

    Celia McMahon

    Thank you Ace Books for the ARC! This was one of the books so high on my anticipated book list that I practically begged the publisher for a copy. No shame in my game. When I snagged it, I dove right in. Man oh man was I not regretting a word of my long-winded email. A queer college grad moves back to Malaysia from the US after her father loses his job and falls ill. Now she's living with family in a country she hardly knows doing her best to maintain a long-distance relationship with the girlfri Thank you Ace Books for the ARC! This was one of the books so high on my anticipated book list that I practically begged the publisher for a copy. No shame in my game. When I snagged it, I dove right in. Man oh man was I not regretting a word of my long-winded email. A queer college grad moves back to Malaysia from the US after her father loses his job and falls ill. Now she's living with family in a country she hardly knows doing her best to maintain a long-distance relationship with the girlfriend she's hiding from her family. S&*t really hits the fan when she begins hearing voices, and soon finds out she's being haunted by her dead grandmother. Talk about having it rough. Jess is then forced into a game of cat and mouse with her dead grandmother, a vengeful ghost, and a plan to destroy an old temple. Oh, add in the fact that said dead grandmother can possess her body and do anything she pleases, including commit crimes. She's a feisty one, this ghost. And she knows all of Jess's secrets. BLACK WATER SISTER is an entertaining read that pits a lesbian heroine against evil spirits and an annoying dead grandmother. Oh and gangsters. Let's not forget them. This is without a doubt one of the best books I've read this year, and it deserves to do well during publication. I hope it has the same impact on readers as it did for me.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Gabriele | QueerBookdom

    DRC provided by Macmillan via NetGalley and Ace via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. Representation: lesbian Malaysian protagonist, Malaysian and Chinese secondary and tertiary characters, Indian-Chinese secondary character, lesbian Indian tertiary character. Content Warning: mentions of cancer and remission, death, homophobia, anxiety, misogyny, violence, racism, organised crime, attempted rape, mentions of physical abuse. Black Water Sister by Zen Cho is a phenomenal contemporary par DRC provided by Macmillan via NetGalley and Ace via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. Representation: lesbian Malaysian protagonist, Malaysian and Chinese secondary and tertiary characters, Indian-Chinese secondary character, lesbian Indian tertiary character. Content Warning: mentions of cancer and remission, death, homophobia, anxiety, misogyny, violence, racism, organised crime, attempted rape, mentions of physical abuse. Black Water Sister by Zen Cho is a phenomenal contemporary paranormal novel that deals with personal growth, old grudges, vengeance, family and new beginnings. Harvard-graduate Jess is already juggling a lot of balls in the air: moving back to Malaysia; maintaining a long-distance relationship with her girlfriend Sharanya and hiding her sexuality from her relatives; looking for a job after finishing her degree and a place for her family to stay in Penang; but life does not think it is enough because now she is also starting to hear the voice of her late maternal grandmother in her head, who has a bone to pick with a local business man. I was captivated by the book from the beginning and my love for it only grew as the page number increased. I loved how the atmosphere changed from humorous at times (Ah Ma’s ghost made me smirk more than once) to eerie and frightening at others; the Malaysian and Chinese cultural aspects; the writing which evoked so many images in my mind. Jess was a great and relatable character, her struggles with coming out to her family, which had, even if not vocally, homophobic feelings and thoughts, resonated with me. Even though, you know your family loves you, you never know how they will react to your coming out; how their behaviour will change; how your every action will be subjected to judgement. The only thing I hated was the pressure Sharanya put on Jess about coming out. Black Water Sister was everything I wanted it to be and more.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sana

    NOW THAT IS A COVER 'a contemporary fantasy about a stressed zillennial lesbian and her terrible ghost grandma' What more can I want from a book, TBH Source NOW THAT IS A COVER 'a contemporary fantasy about a stressed zillennial lesbian and her terrible ghost grandma' What more can I want from a book, TBH Source

  30. 4 out of 5

    Laura ☾

    I really wanted more from this book! The concept was really interesting, but I feel like the execution - especially the pacing and the character development - were a bit lacking. Everything just felt a bit shallow somehow. I just found it very hard to connect to Jess, and while I understand why she was in such a messy place in her life, she just didn't feel particularly relatable? I really wanted more from this book! The concept was really interesting, but I feel like the execution - especially the pacing and the character development - were a bit lacking. Everything just felt a bit shallow somehow. I just found it very hard to connect to Jess, and while I understand why she was in such a messy place in her life, she just didn't feel particularly relatable?

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...