review: the wrath and the dawn

the wrath and the dawnTitle: The Wrath and the Dawn
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Published in 2015
Genre: retelling
Rating: ★★★ – it was okay

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. 

my thoughts on june 19

The Wrath and the Dawn had been on my to-read list since its release in 2015. It was one of the most hyped book in the bookish community at the time, and as always, the hype scared me. I kept putting it off because I didn’t want to end up disappointed. High expectations can really kill a reading experience, which seems rather unfair to the novel. After about 4 years and seeing some mixed reviews pop up, I decided it was finally time to read it. Unfortunately, I still found it to be a disappointing read.

The premise makes it seem like an epic read. Shahrzad volunteers to be the King’s wife, even though he kills them come morning. One of his past brides that was killed was Shahrzad’s best friend, and she is determined to get revenge. Doesn’t that sound incredible?

Unfortunately, this book fell flat for me. Shahrzad hates the king (obviously), who has killed countless of women after marrying them – including her best friend. This level of hatred, these things he has done, you cannot overcome. What I wanted from this book was a revenge story. Yet only a few days after she comes to the palace (I can’t exactly remember how long it took), Shahrzad begins to waver. She starts to notice how handsome the king is, and just doesn’t understand how he could have done such monstrous things. Because we all know attractive people are inherently nice… With every little tiny act of kindness, she proclaims he can’t be a monster after all.

Listen, girl. Killers aren’t going on a rampage every single second. A person can be perfectly charming and kind, and still murder others. They are not mutually exclusive! I hated how fast she gave up on hating him, how their “love” story developed in .2 seconds, and how she seemed to forgive him for everything. I just couldn’t deal.

Let’s be honest, this was a case of insta-love. She hated him, sure. However, after being kind of nice to her for 2 days, she was ready to throw it all away to be with him. I found myself rolling my eyes for the majority of the book, because it just seemed so unrealistic and ridiculous to me.

Of course, I knew there would be a romance in this story, an enemies-to-lovers one. I didn’t expect it to develop so fast though. That took me out of the story, and made me genuinely disinterested in reading it.

For the life of me, I can’t remember what happened in this novel aside from the romance between the two main characters. The only other person I can recall is Tariq, a character I actually enjoyed. He should have ended up with the girl, in my opinion. I guess that could still happen, because I haven’t read the sequel, but I highly doubt it.

Lastly, let’s talk about the reveal on why Khalid kills his brides every morning. Obviously, I won’t spoil what the big secret is, in case you haven’t read it. When I came across the reveal, I honestly couldn’t believe it. It made me so angry, to be honest. If you’ve read this book come talk to me on Twitter in the DMs, because I need to discuss this with you all. To me, this was such an obvious ploy to make Khalid seem more likeable, and I hated it.

All in all, this book just wasn’t for me. The romance killed what could have been an epic read for me. I simply lost interest in the story, and won’t pick up the sequel.

 

mini reviews: illuminae, gemina + obsidio

illuminaeTitle: Illuminae
Series: Illuminae Files #1
Authors: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Genre: science fiction (YA)
Rating: ★★★★★ – a new favorite

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

my thoughts on june 19

Everyone in the bookish community has been screaming about The Illuminae Files since the release of the first book in 2015. I always avoided this novel because I simply didn’t think it would be one I’d enjoy. When I had to take a 7-hour train journey last December, I decided it was finally time to give the audiobook of Illuminae a try. And I promptly fell in love with the novel.

As this is a full-cast audiobook, which most of you probably already knew, it’s an incredible reading/listening experience. It adds so much to the story, and helps bring it to life. I found myself laughing at the snarkiness, rooting for the main characters, and being filled with horror at some of the events that happened. I’m also both terrified and protective of AIDAN.

Illuminae reminded me somewhat of The Martian by Andy Weir because both are set in space with characters in extremely dire situations, yet are humorous as well. The humor doesn’t take away from the gravity of their circumstances, which I really enjoyed.

Obviously, I adored the characters as well. Did I neally need to clarify that?


geminaTitle: Gemina
Series: Illuminae Files #2
Authors: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Genre: science fiction (YA)
Rating: ★★★★.₅ – loved it

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

 

my thoughts on june 19

After loving Illuminae, I knew I didn’t want to wait too long to continue the series. I had to know what would happen next! In April, I listened to the sequel, Gemina. Actually, I devoured this book even though I listened to the audiobook. In one weekend, I had listened to the entire thing! Usually audiobooks take me far longer than that.

While this is a sequel to Illuminae, it follows two different characters. The main characters in the first novel were Kady and Ezra, while in Gemina we follow Hanna and Nik. I admit that it took me a bit longer to get into the sequel than it did for the first book. That’s why I couldn’t justify giving it 5 stars. The start of the novel felt too slow for me, especially after the ending of the previous book. I had grown to love Kady and Ezra so much, why would I care about Nik and Hanna?

After a while though, I grew attached to the story. Nik ended up being one of my favorite characters in the entire series, after his cousin and AIDAN of course.

This series is so action-packed. Every time you think it can’t get worse for our heroes, the authors prove you wrong.

Like I mentioned earlier, while it did have a bit of a slower start I do think Gemina is a great sequel. We got introduced to some fantastic new characters, and the list of people we would protect with our own life grew longer.

I don’t have much else to say about Gemina, other than THAT ENDING.


obsidioTitle: Obsidio
Series: The Illuminae Files #3
Authors: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Genre: science fiction (YA)
Rating: ★★★★ – really liked it

I won’t provide a synopsis as that would truly spoil the previous two books in the series. If you want to read the premise anyway, you can click on the cover of the book or the title above to go to its Goodreads page.

 

 

 

my thoughts on june 19

As you can see from my rating, Obsidio was my least favorite book in the trilogy. While I was happy to be back with some of my favorite characters, and excited to find out where the story would take us, I can’t help but feel that the stakes weren’t as high in this book. Their journey and space battle is coming to a close, but their circumstances are very different from the previous two books. I didn’t feel as terrified for the lives of my faves, which made it into a less exciting or nail-biting read.

It wrapped up a little too neatly for me, to be honest. I felt like the authors might have been afraid to make certain choices, even though they would have been more believable in my opinion. I know that it’s science fiction and thus being “realistic” doesn’t really matter, but if you’ve read the book you might understand my point.

I don’t want make this mini review sound too negative, because I did really like the book! I gave it 4 stars after all. It’s a good conclusion to a series I fell in love with, and I’m very happy I binge-listened to them all.

By the way, that last line. What??

Have you read The Illuminae Files? What did you think of it?

review: the shadowglass, the conclusion to one of my favorite fantasy trilogies

the shadow glassTitle: The Shadowglass
Series: The Bone Witch #3
Author: Rin Chupeco
Published in 2019 by Sourcebooks Fire

I won’t provide a synopsis because this is the third book in the trilogy and would contain spoilers for the previous instalments. If you want to read the premise of The Shadowglass, you can click on the title above or the cover, which will take you to the Goodreads page.

My review on the first book, The Bone Witch.

 

 

my thoughts on june 19

The Shadow Glass was one of my most anticipated releases of 2019, and one of the only books I pre-ordered. I’ve been in love with this trilogy ever since receiving an e-ARC of the first book in 2016. I was both excited and scared to read this conclusion, because it would wrap up one of my favorite stories. Would it be a good ending? I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed by this book at all.

Obviously, I can’t say much (or anything at all really) about the plot or storyline of the book because it would spoil the events of the previous two novels. I’ll keep it very general and abstract for you.

I absolutely love the twists and turns in this story. Throughout this entire trilogy, I found myself doubting every character and interaction. I didn’t know who to trust, much like Tea doesn’t know who she can rely on. I was taken by surprise multiple times throughout this book, which doesn’t happen all that often anymore. It was a wild ride, and I even shed a few tears at some point.

That is the nature of tyranny, young Tea. Maintaining power is their sole intention. Why worry about retaliation and revolution when they have always intended to wield the sword?

What makes this trilogy stand out to me are the characters. They’re all so well-developed, given their own time, and have their strengths and flaws.

Tea is a badass woman, but she isn’t infallible either.

“We all admired her, Knox.” Lord Besserly raised his glass. “Let’s raise our glasses to the Dark asha. As strong and mighty as we are, able warriors one and all – may nothing we do piss her off.”

She’s way too impulsive and emotional at times, which leads to rash decision making. The great part is that she’s very aware of her personality flaws and they don’t overtake the story – if that makes sense. Love, family, and friendship are incredibly important to her, which shows in the way she treats her friends. She’d do absolutely anything for them. While she has a strong sense of duty, she won’t let it overshadow her humanity, or her as a person.

“I am selfish. I am not the compassionate woman she is. Sometimes I feel she is far too kind for her own good. I will serve the kingdoms, but not at the cost of my health.”

Another character I want to bundle up in a blanket and protect forever is Likh. In the entire trilogy, we’ve seen how fluid gender is through Likh’s story. While the rest of the world considers Likh a boy, she has always been drawn to the asha (female witches) over the Deathseekers (males capable of drawing runes and magic). Likh loves the intricate hua of the asha, the way they perform and carry themselves. In The Shadowglass, we see Likh realize which pronouns actually fit her and how she explains it to the others. Seeing this transition, this realization and acceptance, was wonderful.

Aside from gender, there’s also diversity in terms of sexuality. There’s an f/f relationship I absolutely adore, but I feel is more prominent in the second book rather than the third. There’s a male character who is primarily attracted to other men as well.

If you haven’t read this trilogy yet, please give it a try. I promise it’s worth your time. I’m so happy to say that this Asian-inspired fantasy series written by a Filipino author belongs on my favorites shelf. 

review: the sacred lies of Minnow Bly (the YA cult novel everyone should read)

the sacred lies of minnow blyTitle: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly
Author: Stephanie Oakes
Genre: contemporary, mystery (YA)
Published in 2016 by Speak
Rating: ★★★★.₅ – loved it

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust. And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it’s clear that Minnow knows something—but she’s not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

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I bought this book during YALC 2018 in London because I remembered hearing some buzz about it prior to its release. I’ve always been fascinated by cults, so this book seemed perfect for me. I can’t believe it took me almost a year to read it, because it was incredible.

This novel follows Minnow Bly, whose parents joined the Kevinian cult when she was 5. She grew up in their compound in the middle of nowhere, following the rules of their prophet. Minnow’s doubts about the prophet have been increasing for years, and she gets punished more frequently as she gets older.

The story is divided into the past and the present. In the present, Minnow is in juvenile detention for a crime she committed after escaping. In the past, she is growing up in the cult and meeting a boy who lives with his dad in the woods close to their compound. As the novel continues, Minnow’s story unfolds and you slowly learn how she lost her hands, and how she eventually escaped.

That’s right, I said ‘how she lost her hands’. One of the few things you know going into this book is that the Prophet ordered her hands to be cut off for disobeying him (and thus, God). I have to admit that reading how this happened, and why, was devastating. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

In those moments, I wish I could’ve articulated how unremarkable brutality is. How common.

I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite timeline in this book. Both had their fascinating, heart-breaking, and thought-provoking moments, which is why this was such a fast read for me. I didn’t want to put it down at all. I think this is the perfect book for those in a reading slump because the compelling nature of it will make you want to read it in one sitting.

What stood out to me most is Minnow’s life in juvie. She meets a ton of other girls there, whose lives mirror hers in one aspect or another.

Here, my scars are the only part of me that could be called normal. It seems like every girl here has had their own personal Prophet.

It truly made me think about the huge amount of girls who grow up in abusive homes, have abusive partners, or grow up in poverty. The odds are stacked against them from the start, and there’s barely a way out of that life. When they finally fight back against their abusers in the only way accessible to them, they get sent to juvie/jail.

It left me stuck in this grey area of morality. Of course I don’t think we should all murder or assault people. But what else were some of these girls supposed to do? Just take the abuse forever? They have no power, and need to take some back in one way or another. I just felt so much for them, and it makes me want to do more research on juvenile detention centers in my own country.

Aside from Minnow’s life in juvie, a large part of the book also takes place at the cult’s compound. I don’t want to say too much about this part, because this is where the mystery aspect of the story comes into play. What I will say, is that the intriguing part of the cult is the different way it affects the followers.

Part of her doubting the teachings of her Prophet results in her trying to get others to leave the compound with her, to escape. She’s baffled when she realizes that not everyone wants to leave. I think the author did an incredible job portraying the mindsets of the cult people. The ones who are so indoctrinated, the ones who are simply to afraid to take action, and the ones who would do anything to leave.

But the offer of freedom doesn’t mean anything to people who already think they’re free.

This story does partly revolve around love, as Minnow meets someone while she lives at the compound and falls in love with him. The romance aspect never takes over the rest of the story, however. It’s an important part of the main character’s life which is why it’s entangled in her memories. But it’s not the core of the story. I loved the way the author managed to intertwine all these different aspects of a person’s life, without allowing one to overwhelm and overtake the others.

I don’t know how else to convince you to pick this book up. If you haven’t read it yet, I hope you’ll give it a try. It’s a brutal read, and will make you doubt humanity once again, but it’s an important read as well. Family, friendship, and love are all prominent parts in Minnow’s life, and Stephanie Oakes portrays both the beautiful and ugly parts of the relationships in the main character’s life.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

 

my thoughts on 3 YA contemporaries I never reviewed

I’m so far behind on my reviews, it’s not even funny. A little while ago, I realized that there are 3 YA contemporaries I read but never reviewed on this blog. Sometimes, I don’t have all that much to say about a book which leads to me never reviewing it at all. To combat that, I’ll try to make more of these combined mini reviews. Here are my thoughts on Leah on the OffbeatI Believe in a Thing Called Love, and I Was Born For This.

leah on the offbeatTitle: Leah on the Offbeat
Series: Creekwood #2
Author: Becky Albertalli
Rating: ★★★★ – really liked it

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended. 

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When Leah on the Offbeat was first announced, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I loved the first book in this companion duology/series, and wanted to know more about Leah as a character. After its release, the book started to get some mixed reviews which made me incredibly nervous. What if I didn’t like it?

I shouldn’t have worried. I absolutely loved this book, and read it in one sitting. It’s not a perfect novel, which I’ll discuss later, but I don’t really believe that exists. The reason most people didn’t like this book is because they disliked Leah as a character or person. I would be a complete hypocrite if I were to say that though, because Leah is basically me as a teenager.

As a teen, I was horribly insecure. Yes, I’m still somewhat insecure, thank you for bringing that up. I was afraid of being the one in the friend group who didn’t really belong, and couldn’t really talk about my feelings. I pushed my friends away and distanced myself from them instead of talking it out, because that’s all I could deal with. I could see so much of myself in this teenage girl, which is why I loved this book so much. I’m happy to say I’ve grown out of that mindset though.

The reason I can’t give this book 5 stars is because of the way Leah reacts when someone comes out to her. She basically denies their sexuality and claims it can’t be true, and honestly it’s just the worst way to react. It isn’t challenged in the book, which is why I feel like we need to address it.

Overall, I absolutely adored this book. I’m so grateful to have gotten to know Leah better.


I believe in a thing called loveTitle: I Believe in a Thing Called Love
Author: Maurene Goo
Rating: ★★★ – it was okay

Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president. Varsity soccer star. And it’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life.

She finds guidance in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Steps to True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and staged car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

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I picked this one up because a) the hype surrounding it, and b) the main character tries to win over her crush with tips she got from her favorite K-dramas. Doesn’t that sound wonderful and hilarious? I love K-dramas, no matter how cliche they might be at times, so I figured this would be the perfect light and fluffy read for me.

I was wrong. I ended up giving this 3 stars, but I’m still somewhat conflicted on my rating for this book – even though it’s been a year since I finished reading it.

One the one hand, I enjoyed a large part of this book. I loved all the K-drama references and little tidbits you learn about Korean culture while reading. Desi’s dad is one of my favorite characters ever, and I wish to protect him forever. Lastly, I’m also glad this wasn’t a love triangle. I was kind of scared that would happen when I first started reading. All in all, this is a quick and enjoyable read.

On the other hand, I hated what Desi did. Yes, I’m aware of how cliche dramas can be, and how they are full of tropes that aren’t necessarily healthy especially when it comes to relationships. However, Desi took it to a whole new level in this book. What she did was incredibly dangerous and completely insane. The worst part is that there were really no consequences to what she did. I can’t really accept that as a reader, so I decided to lower my rating. It truly tainted the entire book for me.


i was born for thisTitle: I Was Born For This
Author: Alice Oseman
Rating: ★★★.₅ – liked it

For Angel Rahimi, life is only about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are currently taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything – her friendships, her dreams, her place in the world.

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark too. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band is all he’s ever dreamed of doing. It’s just a shame that recently everything in his life seems to have turned into a bit of a nightmare.

Because that’s the problem with dreaming – eventually, inevitably, real life arrives with a wake-up call. And when Angel and Jimmy are unexpectedly thrust together, they will discover just how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.

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I read this before going to YALC in July 2018, because I wanted to read all of Alice’s books before meeting her. I Was Born For This is Alice Oseman’s latest novel. It revolves around the frontman of a band called The Ark and one of their fans called Angel.

Angel is preparing to go to The Ark’s concert with her best friend, who she is meeting for the first time. They’ve been fangirling over The Ark online for ages, and became friends along the way. Now, they’re going to see their favorite band live.

This is a story of friendship, fandom, fame, and family. Ah, the alliteration. I couldn’t help myself. While I think this novel explored these aspects incredibly well, I didn’t fall in love with the book itself. I loved what Alice had to say about how fandom and sexism and (online) friendships. I tabbed certain passages because I was so glad to see my thoughts written in a book.

I was also quite intrigued by some of the characters. Jimmy, the frontman of The Ark, has to deal with fame and addiction as well as being outed against his will by someone else, and the transphobic comments still thrown his way. I wish I could have read more from all the members of The Ark, because I found them to be the most fascinating.

While I loved a lot of the concepts of the book and some of the characters, I just couldn’t connect to the book itself. The entire time I was reading, I knew it would end up as a 3.5 star-read. One that is okay, or just good. Not great, but not bad either. Just okay.

 

review: noteworthy | a cappella, girl disguises as boy, and boarding school greatness

noteworthyTitle: Noteworthy
Author: Riley Redgate
Genre: contemporary (YA)
Published in 2017 by Amulet Books
Rating: ★★★★.₅ – loved it

It’s the start of Jordan Sun’s junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. Unfortunately, she’s an Alto 2, which—in the musical theater world—is sort of like being a vulture in the wild: She has a spot in the ecosystem, but nobody’s falling over themselves to express their appreciation. So it’s no surprise when she gets shut out of the fall musical for the third year straight. But then the school gets a mass email: A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped . . . revered . . . all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

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When I picked this up, I was in need of a cute contemporary read after finishing some heart-wrenching and moving books. I wanted something lighter, a novel that would leave me happy by the end. If you’re ever in the mood for some contemporary YA, fluffy or not, I’d recommend Noteworthy

Noteworthy revolves around Chinese-American student Jordan Sun, who recently started her junior year in musical theater at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. As the author is also Chinese-American, this is an #ownvoices novel in that regard. She’s just found out she didn’t get the lead in the upcoming show, and after confronting her teacher, discovers it’s because she is an Alto 2. Female leading roles in musicals tend to go to sopranos, after all. There’s nothing Jordan can really do about it, as it’s not a skill she can work on or improve. It’s simply her voice.

Then she receives an email that could change her life at school. The Sharpshooters, the most revered a cappella group on campus, have an open spot and are holding auditions. The only problem? They’re an all-male group. Jordan decides to dress up as a guy and audition anyway – and then gets stuck in an endless cycle of lies when she gets in.

To be honest, I liked everything about this book. The story was engaging, fun and light, yet thought-provoking. The pacing was pretty consistent, and I found myself reading huge chunks of the book in one go. I didn’t want to put it down at all. 

I’ve always loved the gender bending stories, and this one is no exception to that rule. I think it tackles to topic far better than most, as it delves into a discussion on sexuality and gender as well.

I’ll say it now: I absolutely loved Jordan. She’s such a fun main character. In fact, I would read more contemporary books if female leads were more like her. She was funny and witty at times, awkward at others. Sometimes she knew exactly what to say, other times she was lost for words. She got into the most ridiculous situations because of her lie, yet it never felt over the top. I related so much to her, even though we have pretty much nothing in common. I wish I could be her friend.

Honestly, I wish I could have been friends with all of the Sharpshooters. Their little found family is so fantastic and adorable, and I want to be part of it.

This is basically a brilliant and diverse version of the gender bending story we’ve all read before. Note that I said brilliant AND diverse. AND. The book is not brilliant simply because it is diverse. It’s an incredible book, and it’s incredibly diverse.  It’s a novel about teenagers with different religions, ethnicities, sexualities and so on, but it doesn’t focus solely on that aspect of their characters. It’s not a story about Jordan being Chinese-American or bisexual, even though she is. I also want to say that I loved the fact that one of the Sharpshooters is dyslexic. I feel like with regards to diversity, we don’t talk enough about disability representation.

What I loved most about this book is that it addresses gender identity and how it affects people differently. Jordan dresses, acts, and shows herself to the world as a guy, even though she doesn’t identify as male. She isn’t trans, but she finds herself in a situation a lot of trans people go through. She becomes Julian to be a part of the Sharpshooters and boost her level of experience – and possible save her future career. But she also realizes that for a lot of people, these things are not so frivolous. The trans community deals with things like secretly buying boys’ clothes and becoming someone “else” all the time, in a far more serious and often terrifying way. I say terrifying because unfortunately the world is full of pieces of shit who abuse trans people for being who they are. I like that the author addressed that this isn’t fun and games for everyone.

In the book, you see Jordan struggling with applying tips she finds on forums for trans people and people in drag to her life. She knows that she is borrowing from a community she doesn’t belong to, and it makes her feel like shit. Thank you, Riley Redgate, for including stuff like this in your book!

FINAL THOUGHTS

If it’s not obvious by now, I don’t know what to say. I absolutely loved this book. It’s a diverse, own voices novel with tropes I simply adore yet it isn’t afraid to address the real issues hiding behind those tropes either. If you want to read a contemporary YA novel, I’d recommend picking this up. Seriously. READ IT.

 

spoiler-free review: the wicked king | preferring the sequel to the first book?

the wicked kingTitle: The Wicked King
Series; Folk of the Air #2
Author: Holly Black
Published in 2019 by Little, Brown and Company
Genre: fantasy (YA)
Rating: ★★★★.₅ – loved it

I won’t provide a synopsis, as this is the second book in a series and I don’t want to spoil anyone. If you want to check the premise out, you can click on the title or the cover of the book, which will take you to the Goodreads page.

You can also read my thoughts on the first book, The Cruel Prince, on my blog. I’ll go over some of my thoughts on the first book in this review too, as it’s relevant to my explanations, but you can read a more detailed version here.

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If you’ve read my review of The Cruel Prince, the first book in the series, you’ll know I was left somewhat disappointed by the novel. I certainly didn’t hate it, but I was bored throughout most of the book. Nothing really happened until 75% into the story, and it made the pacing feel somewhat off. As I had borrowed that book from my local library, I wanted to do the same for the sequel. I put in an acquisition request, got approved, and picked The Wicked King up a few weeks later.

I’m so happy to say I enjoyed the sequel far more than I did the first book. I had no issues with the pacing of this story, and the predominant themes of The Wicked King are somewhat more up my alley.

This entire novel is basically made up of scheming. As the faerie world thrives on power, political intrigue and backstabbing is all in a day’s work. In The Wicked King, Jude is participating more and more in the scheming of faeries. She’s reached a certain level of power, and now needs to do everything she can in order to hold her position. I adore stories that focus on strategy, politics, and scheming, even though they can seem a lot less plot-driven to others. That’s why I think this sequel was more up my alley than the previous one, because we were always looking at all the players on the board, what has been happening, who could gain from it, and so on.

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold on to.

I was also far more intrigued by the characters in the sequel. I feel like we didn’t truly get to know anyone in the first book, including Jude. In The Wicked King however, I had more of a grasp on their characters.

I’m absolutely fascinated by Jude. I find myself rooting for her all the time, even if that means cheering her on as she kills someone. She’s not a good person, and she owns it. She’s ambitious, smart, and realistic which is everything I’ve ever wanted in a main character. Basically, she’s a Slytherin and I’m in love with her. What I liked most about her is that Holly Black made her smart and cunning, but not all-knowing. She was able to outmaneuver so many people and faeries, but was caught off guard at times too.

I was also horrified to discover I started to like Cardan. I mentioned in my review of the first one that I wasn’t sure how to feel about the tension between Cardan and Jude, as he treated her so horribly for years – and that having an abusive past does not excuse you from abusing others. But while reading The Wicked King, I actually started to like him. Do I think he’s a good guy? Definitely not. Am I still rooting for him? Yes. I actually sort of felt like a proud mom by the end of the book, which is so odd.

I did wonder what the point of Locke in this story is. Is there actually a reason to have him in the novels, other than create tension between the families and couples? I also want to say that I absolutely hate Vivi. There, I said it. I think she’s selfish and naive to the point of hurting others, without even realizing how her behavior is affecting others in a negative way.

Before I end this review, I’ll quickly say… THAT ENDING. WHAT??


Surprisingly, I truly enjoyed reading The Wicked King. I wasn’t enamored by the first book in the series, so I didn’t have the highest expectations for the sequel. Unexpectedly, I ended up loving it! It’s filled with strategic plans, politics, scheming, murder and power plays, which I absolutely adore. If you were slightly disappointed by The Cruel Prince, I’d still recommend giving this a try. You might end up pleasantly surprised!

Have you read The Wicked King? What did you think of it? Have you ever enjoyed a sequel more than the first book?

review: American Street | a fantastic YA novel about U.S. immigration and family

american streetTitle: American Street
Author: Ibi Zoboi
Published in 2017 by Balzer + Bray
Genre: contemporary fiction (YA)
Rating: ★★★★.₅ – loved it

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

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American Street is a book I’d been interested in reading for a while, but not necessarily enough to purchase a copy of my own. I don’t mean that in an offensive way, before anyone asks. There are just so many books I want to read, and I can’t afford to buy them all. I was lucky enough to spot a copy of this novel at my local library, and knew I had to take it with me. I’m glad I got a chance to read this, because it was absolutely fantastic.

This is the story of Fabiola, who is immigrating to the U.S. with her mother. They’ve left Port-au-Prince, not only to find a better life but also to be reunited with their family. When they arrive in JFK Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, and Fabiola has to continue the journey to Detroit on her own. Her cousins are there to welcome her to the U.S. and take her to her new home, which is her aunt’s house.

I found this to be such an interesting take on immigration, and I’d urge pretty much everyone to read this. There’s a duality in Fabiola’s life in Detroit. On the one hand, she wants to belong and fit in with her new country, and her family. That requires her to become more “American”, and drop some of her habits and beliefs that she held so close in Haiti. On the other hand, she needs to hold on to those habits and beliefs, because they have made her into the person she is. They’re such a big part of her, and she doesn’t want to just forget about them. While she’s dealing with all of this, she’s also trying to reunite with her mom.

There’s so much going on in this book; I don’t really know where to start. One of my favorite parts of American Street was watching Fabiola adjust to life in the United States. It’s so different from her life in Haiti, and it left her feeling like she was being swept away by the river at times – like she couldn’t find her footing. She has to enroll in school with her cousins, and act a completely different way. In Detroit, she has to look tough. She has to let people know they can’t mess with her. It’s so far removed from the girl she actually is, and you can see her struggle to put up a front. I truly felt for her when she talked about how much she missed speaking (Haitian) Creole, because her aunt wouldn’t allow her to do so. She needed to speak English at all times, even at home with her family. She missed Haitian food, and cooking with her mom, so much but had to settle for American food instead. I can’t imagine having such a big part of who you are taken away from you: your language, the face you present to the world, and the cuisine you were raised with. I know that I’m privileged to have never known what that’s like, since I was born and raised in Belgium and still live here.

Fabiola also learns to practice her religion in the dead of night, so no one will see her and misinterpret. After all, people will easily assume that she’s “doing voodoo” which has been given an awful connotation by Western people. She even tries to hide it from her family members, but doesn’t want to give it up at the same time. She needs to pray. For her mom. For her cousins. For her aunt.

American Street is an #ownvoices novel when it comes to immigrating from Haiti to the U.S. as the author did the exact same with her mother at age 4. I think she drew such a vivid portrait of that experience in this book, and I’m grateful for the glimpse into her life it provided me.

There are so many interesting characters in this book. I’ve already talked about my love for Fabiola’s character earlier, but I feel like I can’t properly express my feelings for her still. Other important characters in the novel are her cousins: Chantal, Donna, and Princess. You truly start to care about all of them, even if you can’t agree with their choices. That especially applies to Donna, here.

There’s also a romance in this book. Fabiola starts dating a guy she meets through Donna’s boyfriend even though she isn’t entirely sure about it at the start. He’s incredibly nice to her and always treats her with kindness, which leads to her developing feelings for him gradually. All I wanted is to wrap him up in a blanket and protect him from the world. While I didn’t think this book necessarily needed a romance, its presence didn’t bother me in the slightest.

Aside from immigration, this novel also talks about drug use, abuse, and drug dealing. I think it’s necessary to include topics like this in YA literature, because removing them from the conversation won’t stop it from happening. It gave the book a tense, dramatic story line that kept the reader glued to the pages.

My only criticism for American Street is that I felt it was a tad too short for everything it was trying to achieve. It’s only 336 pages long, but discusses so many topics. In my opinion, that lead to some things not being developed as well as they could’ve been.


Obviously, this is a book I’d recommend. Even though I didn’t think I’d end up loving it at first – because I don’t read that much hard hitting YA contemporaries – I’m so glad I decided to give it a chance.

review: a shiver of snow and sky | my first polar fantasy?

a shiver of snow and skyTitle: A Shiver of Snow and Sky
Author: Lisa Lueddecke
Published in October 2017 by Scholastic
Genre: fantasy (YA)
Rating: ★★★★.₅ – loved it

Red, red, the lights glow red
Beware the danger up ahead…

On the frozen island of Skane, the sky speaks. Beautiful lights appear on clear nights, and their colours have meaning: Green means all is well, and the Goddess is happy. Blue means a snow storm is on the way. 

And then there’s red. Red is rare. A warning. 

Seventeen years ago, the sky turned red just as Ósa was born, unleashing a plague that claimed the lives of hundreds of villagers, including her own mother. This time, when the night sky once again bleeds crimson, she must discover how to stop the onslaught before so many lives are lost again.

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I was browsing the shelves of one of my favorite (secondhand) bookstores in Brussels when I spotted A Shiver of Snow and Sky. Initially, I was drawn in by the cover because it’s absolutely stunning. It has a foiled cover, and the combination of the red, black and white is gorgeous. After I read the synopsis, I realized it was a polar fantasy novel about a village in which the people are warned about oncoming danger and storms through lights in the sky.

For the first time in 17 years, the lights above Skane turn red. The color is a warning to the villagers: death is coming. The last time it happened, a plague killed hundreds of people in the community, including Ósa’s mother. Her father and sister have never forgiven her for it, as they believe giving birth to Ósa weakened her mother enough to contract the plague. She has grown up in a pretty loveless house, but has always found comfort in her best friend, Ivar.

First of all, I absolutely adored the setting of this novel. From the first couple of pages, you are immersed in this atmospheric world. I could almost imagine myself trudging through the snow in Skane, growing up in a place that’s so utterly cold, even though I definitely didn’t. I’ve never been someone who loves winter, snow or ice, yet I found myself longing for it while reading A Shiver of Snow and Sky. It’s clear how much Ivar and Ósa love Skane and its climate, and they easily carry that love over to the reader.

I have to admit that the story went in a different direction than I was expecting, which is not a bad thing at all. From the synopsis, I assumed Ósa would have to find a way to stop the plague or cure it. While that is partially true, it’s not the focus of the book. Ósa does go on a quest to save her people, and I absolutely loved it.

What I particularly enjoyed is that we get to see two sides of the story of Skane. We follow Ósa on her quest to save her people. However, we also get to witness the way the town itself prepares thanks to Ivar’s perspective. Interestingly enough, Ósa’s parts are written in first person, while Ivar’s are in third person. The mix of perspectives was fascinating to me. Instead of just following the “chosen one” on their quest to save the world, this book also allows us to witness the people trying to save themselves. They don’t just sit on their asses waiting for things to happen, and I loved it.

I have to talk about the characters as well, obviously. I had so much respect for Ósa. Despite the way she was raised, she turned into a wonderful person. She clearly loves her home, the villagers, and her friends and would do anything to help them. I think the lack of love she gets from her family was traumatic for her, yet she isn’t the typical tortured soul we need to pity or feel sorry for. She’s just a kind person. She has her brave moments, but is not afraid to admit to being terrified. She accepts help when she can.

I also truly adored Ivar. He’s definitely going on the list of love interests I love too! He’s such a kind guy, having helped Ósa so often when she didn’t feel welcome at home. They spend so much time together, and have known each other for years. What I particularly enjoyed is how he respected her decisions, and knew when to listen to his head instead of his heart. While he would have loved to be able to protect his best friend the entire time, he knows he is needed elsewhere. He trusts her to reach her goal on her own, and fulfills his responsibilities well even though he’d rather be somewhere else.

I absolutely hated Ósa’s father and sister. I cannot imagine ever treating a family member in that way. Honestly, if I would ever meet her sister, I would strangle her. Same for her dad.

While I think that the final conclusion of the book was a bit sudden and convenient, I ended up giving this book 4.5 stars. I wish it would have been a little bit longer because a) the ending would have been more satisfying, b) I wanted to spend more time in Skane, and c) I didn’t want to let go of Ósa and Ivar. That’s a good sign right, when you wish the book you are reading was longer?


I’m sad I never really see anyone talk about this book (other than one booktube channel), so I’m hoping to change that! If you are interested in polar fantasy at all, or atmospheric fantasy reads, give this one a go. I think I will read Lisa Lueddecke’s other book, but I’m not in a rush to do so. Goodreads marks them as a series, but they’re more companion novels. I think A Shiver of Snow and Sky works perfectly as a standalone.

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy review | were my expectations met?

the lady's guide to petticoats and piracyTitle: The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy
Series: Montague Siblings #1
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Published in October 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: historical fiction, fantasy (YA)
Rating: 3/5 – I enjoyed it

A year after an accidentally whirlwind grand tour with her brother Monty, Felicity Montague has returned to England with two goals in mind—avoid the marriage proposal of a lovestruck suitor from Edinburgh and enroll in medical school. However, her intellect and passion will never be enough in the eyes of the administrators, who see men as the sole guardians of science.

But then a window of opportunity opens—a doctor she idolizes is marrying an old friend of hers in Germany. Felicity believes if she could meet this man he could change her future, but she has no money of her own to make the trip. Luckily, a mysterious young woman is willing to pay Felicity’s way, so long as she’s allowed to travel with Felicity disguised as her maid.

In spite of her suspicions, Felicity agrees, but once the girl’s true motives are revealed, Felicity becomes part of a perilous quest that leads them from the German countryside to the promenades of Zurich to secrets lurking beneath the Atlantic.

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The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy was one of my most anticipated reads of 2018, because I absolutely adored the first installment in the Montague Siblings duology. The first book follows Monty, Felicity and Percy as they make a Grand Tour around Europe. The second book focuses on Felicity as she tries to make her dream of enrolling in medical school reality.

STORY

At the start of the novel Felicity works in a bakery in Edinburgh. Surely, in this hub of medical schools and knowledge someone would allow her to study medicine. Her boss (and friend) proposes, after which Felicity deems it high time to leave and return to England. She contacts her brother to ask whether she can stay with him, and leaves immediately. In London she once again tries to gain entry to medical school, to no avail. Who could ever trust a girl to do such work, after all? We women are way to delicate for that.

The story takes off when Felicity finds someone who is willing to take her to a doctor she’s always looked up to, and who is looking for an assistant. Yet things are never as they seem…

All in all, I liked the story. Watching Felicity battle for a place in this all-male profession is empowering yet infuriating. It makes me so angry to see women get invalidated, and to witness the condescension of men. I was rooting for her, and wanted her to be the first female doctor/surgeon. That aspect of the story was one I was very invested in, and is what kept me reading.

Just like the first book in this duology, The Lady’s Guide is a story of travels. Felicity travels through several countries chasing her dream, and takes us with her on this adventure. Unlike in the previous book, I didn’t truly love this aspect of the novel. I felt like instead of being with the characters on their travels, I was getting snapshots – parts of a movie in which someone went ham with jump cuts. The characters decided to go to a certain city or country at the end of one chapter, and have arrived by the start of the next. Since you don’t get to see that much of their actual journey, it takes the fun out of the whole road-trip/tour for me.

While I really enjoyed the story in general, I wasn’t a true fan of the weird fantastical turn it took at the end. I know that the first book did the exact same, but somehow that progression seemed more reasonable/believable than this one.

I think I would have loved the book more if the author had chosen one genre instead of mixing the two. Either we would have gotten the historical fiction novel where Felicity travels the continents to gain entry to medical school, or the fantasy book filled with pirates.

CHARACTERS

Felicity, Felicity, Felicity… I absolutely loved your sarcastic sense of humor and communication in the first book. Granted, that didn’t change in The Lady’s Guide. You were as witty as ever, and I greatly appreciate it. You made me laugh out loud and even snort at times. I find your passion for medicine inspiring, and applaud you for not letting go of your dreams.

But I have some things I’d like to discuss with you as well. Why are you so judgmental? Feminism does not mean only supporting women who want to break through in all-male professions and change the world by themselves. It does not encourage you to look down on other women for making choices you wouldn’t make. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Feminism is all about equality, and having a choice. You want to become a doctor? Sure, go for it! You want to create a loving home and find a partner who adores you? EQUALLY AS VALID. Stop thinking you’re so much better than others because you don’t like to wear makeup, and/or don’t want to get married. Thanks.

Also, can you stop treating everyone so horribly? Johanna did not deserve what you did to her. At all. While Monty is a bit of an idiot, he’s a good and kind guy. You shouldn’t talk about him in the way you do.

To be honest, I fell out of love with Felicity in this book. While I still enjoy reading about her character, she managed to make me incredibly mad at times. Especially when she apologized to Johanna for being such a judgmental bitch, but still went on to judge others anyway. Don’t even get me started on how she jumped to conclusions so quickly. 0 to 100 real quick.

I did, however, fall in love with Johanna. This girl who loves makeup and pretty dresses, and is incredibly smart. I would love a book focused on her life!

Lastly, I have to admit that I lived for the Percy and Monty cameos in this book. I just love them so much!

FINAL IMPRESSION

I was a tad disappointed by The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy. I was expecting an epic journey from a sarcastic woman determined to break through a male-dominated field. That’s only partly what I got. I still enjoyed my time with the novel (and characters), but I didn’t like how judgmental and rude Felicity was, and how we seemed to skip the actual travel through jumps in time.


Have you read this book? What did you think of it?