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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie ThomasThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 28th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 444
Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

5 Stars

The Hate U Give instantly made the list of my favourite reads of 2017. You won’t find a lot of 5 stars among my ratings but this one was a no-brainer. I’d been expecting great things of Angie Thomas when this release was first announced, as it tackles an emotionally-charged topic in the US, and it did not disappoint.

When I was twelve, my parents had two talks with me. One was the usual birds and the bees. The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me.

This refreshing, daunting new voice deserves all the hype it’s getting. A lot of authors address and confront hard and controversial topics in their works, but Angie Thomas had her finger on the pulse of time with her debut. With its raw, realistic, and authentic narration, The Hate U Give tackles racism and the police violence related to it, but it digs far deeper than that – it uncovers a flaw rooted in our society. It takes a great deal of courage to make us and the world we live in look into a mirror, and Angie Thomas accomplished just that. No wonder so many readers said this book changed their lives.

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Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda FoodyDaughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody
Published by Harlequin on September 7th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 416
Goodreads

A darkly irresistible new fantasy set in the infamous Gomorrah Festival, a traveling carnival of debauchery that caters to the strangest of dreams and desires.

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

2.5 Stars

“But you’re an illusion,” I say. “I created you.”
“That doesn’t mean I’m not real.”

I’d been head over heels for this book ever since reading the premise – a notorious festival, charms and jynxes, illusions that can be killed – and I was beyond excited when our blog was accepted for an electronic ARC of this debut. Well, let’s say my heels broke and I fell face-first into the dirt.

Daughter of the Burning City had so much potential, so many brilliant ideas and magical elements which sparked my curiosity, but the execution failed to make those ideas shine. Foody’s imagination is enchanting but she didn’t turn her interesting ideas into a captivating story.

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A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba BadoeA Jigsaw of Fire and Stars Published by Zephyr on September 7th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Pages: 278
Goodreads

A powerful, haunting, contemporary debut that steps seamlessly from the horrors of people-trafficking to the magic of African folklore, by an award-winning Ghanaian-British filmmaker.

Sante was a baby when she was washed ashore in a sea-chest laden with treasure. It seems she is the sole survivor of the tragic sinking of a ship carrying migrants and refugees. Her people.

Fourteen years on she's a member of Mama Rose's unique and dazzling circus. But, from their watery grave, the unquiet dead are calling Sante to avenge them:

A bamboo flute. A golden bangle. A ripening mango which must not fall... if Sante is to tell their story and her own.

Rich in the rhythms and colours of Africa and glittering circus days. Unflinching in its dark revelations about life. Yaba Badoe's novel is beautiful and cruel and will linger long in the memory.

3.5 Stars

I had heard little to nothing about A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars prior to requesting it on NetGalley. I’ve been trying to expand my reading of literature by authors of cultures foreign to my own and the book’s premise spoke to me, so I was more than delighted than we’d been accepted for this novel.

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is pitched as a contemporary but I believe magical or animist realism describes it best. The story combines contemporary themes such as people-trafficking, the flow of refugees from Africa to Europe, and the search for identity and belonging with magical elements of African folklore.

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When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya MenonWhen Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
on May 30th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads

The arranged marriage YA romcom you didn't know you wanted or needed...

Meet Dimple.

Her main aim in life is to escape her traditional parents, get to university and begin her plan for tech world domination.

Meet Rishi.

He's rich, good-looking and a hopeless romantic. His parents think Dimple is the perfect match for him, but she's got other plans...

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works even harder to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

As joyfully refreshing as Rainbow Rowell, Jenny Han and Nicola Yoon, When Dimple Met Rishi is a frothy, funny contemporary romance told from the dual perspectives of two Indian American protagonists. While Dimple is fighting her family traditions, Rishi couldn't be happier to follow in the footsteps of his parents - could sparks fly between this odd couple, or is this matchmaking attempt doomed to fail?

4 Stars

That moment you realize you’ve been reading a lot of fantasy because you tried to create a section “world-building” for a contemporary (I realized that, unless I was going to judge how well the university campus was described, I wasn’t going to get very far). In the premise on GR, it says, The arranged marriage YA romcom you didn’t know you wanted or needed… Well, I sure knew I wanted it but I didn’t know I needed it. Apparently, I did. This was the perfect read for my exam phase at uni – light but hooking.

When Dimple Met Rishi was one of my most anticipated releases in the contemporary genre, partly because it sounded cute, but mostly because I expected get a great #OwnVoices view on Indian culture. This debut did not disappoint. It may have had some rough edges, since this is Menon’s first novel, but it was every bit the cute and diverse read I expected it to be. 

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Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist by Renée AhdiehFlame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh
Series: Flame in the Mist #1
Published by Putnam Juvenile on May 16th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 416
Goodreads

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn, comes a sweeping, action-packed YA adventure set against the backdrop of Feudal Japan where Mulan meets Tamora Pierce.

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.
Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.

3 Stars

Perhaps the girl wasn’t water, as he’d first thought. Perhaps she was wind. Wind could whip a fire into a frenzy. Make a mighty oak bow. Lash water into the mist.

Having loved Ahdieh’s debut The Wrath and the Dawn, her new project had been thrown onto my TBR before it was even announced what its content was going to be. When I heard it was a story with a feudal Japanese-inspired setting, pitched as  a mash-up of 47 Ronin and my favourite Disney Mulan, I was beyond excited for Flame in the Mist. I don’t know who, for the love of God, pitched this as a Mulan retelling, because except for the girl disguised as a boy, this was nothing like Mulan.

While my knowledge of modern Japan is not too bad, I know very little about its history. So, if you want an informative review on the historical accuracy and rep of feudal Japan, head over to Eri (Airy Reads) to read her review!

Though this book had me well-entertained, Flame in the Mist did not reach the expectations I had built up for this anticipated release. The book’s strong suit was its character dynamics, its feminist touch, and its world-building. I’m also a tremendous fan of the girl-disguised-as-boy narrative. However, there’s potential for improvement for almost every element of the book, be it the depth of the characters, the substance of the plot, or the storytelling. The storyline was unoriginal and shared unmistakable similarities with Ahdieh’s previous work. I could have lived with that had the plot not been so painfully predictable sometimes.

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A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani ChokshiA Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
Series: The Star-Touched Queen #2
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on March 28th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 352
Goodreads

Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

4 Stars

I hadn’t read The Star-Touched Queen prior to picking up this companion novel, as the reviews had put me off and the writing in the chapter sampler had completely distracted me from the plot. I was, however, curious about Chokshi’s following work since debut authors tend to improve their skills with each book. Hence, I read this book as a standalone, and though it helps to have read the previous book or the chapter sampler, it is not a requirement. In my case, waiting for the companion novel was the right choice, because I think I enjoyed it a lot more than I would have its predecessor The Star-Touched Queen.

A Crown of Wishes dazzles with its feisty heroine, sizzling romance, intricate world-building, and lyrical writing. From what I’ve heard, the main plot was one of the weak points of her previous work. While this has not changed, the storyline was gripping enough to hook me a few chapters into the book. The romance, though it is borderline overpowering, added to the overall suspension and employed one of my favourite tropes (I am basically a sucker for enemies-to-lovers, I can’t help it).

“Some tales that never end start with something as simple as an act of impulse and end with something as evil as an act of love.”

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The Last Star by Rick Yancey

The Last Star by Rick YanceyThe Last Star by Rick Yancey
Series: The 5th Wave #3
Published by Putnam Juvenile on May 24th, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Science-Fiction
Pages: 338
Goodreads

The enemy is Other. The enemy is us.

They’re down here, they’re up there, they’re nowhere. They want the Earth, they want us to have it. They came to wipe us out, they came to save us.

But beneath these riddles lies one truth: Cassie has been betrayed. So has Ringer. Zombie. Nugget. And all 7.5 billion people who used to live on our planet. Betrayed first by the Others, and now by ourselves.

In these last days, Earth’s remaining survivors will need to decide what’s more important: saving themselves…or saving what makes us human.

2.5 Stars

The Last Star was one of my most anticipated releases of 2016. This book was a complete and utter disappointment, and I cannot even lie to myself about how disappointing it was. This was not the finale I had wanted for one of my hitherto favourite sci-fi series. Hence, the 2.5 stars. Ben Parish was my silver lining, as the Par(r)ishs always are (Raven Boys fans will understand).

Life is a circle bound by fear. The fear of the predator. The fear of the prey. Without fear, life would not exist.

My original review on Goodreads was very detailed and contained minor spoilers, which is why I broke this review down to the basics for the blog. My original (and very ranty) review can be viewed here.

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The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave by Rick YanceyThe 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Series: The 5th Wave #1
Published by Putnam Juvenile on May 7th, 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Science-Fiction
Pages: 457
Goodreads

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth's last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie's only hope for rescuing her brother-or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

5 Stars

The alien invasion had never been a storyline that excited me until I read Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave roughly three years ago, which threw me into squealy fits of fangirlism. The 5th Wave excites with an imaginative apocalyptic scenario, an adrenaline-inducing plot, and engaging characters whose storylines of struggle, loss, and loneliness shook me down to my bones. Though I have become a more critical reader since I read this book, I’m positive that The 5th Wave is still right up my alley (read my thoughts on the series as a whole at the end of this review).

But if I’m it, the last of my kind, the last page of human history, like hell I’m going to let the story end this way. I may be the last one, but I am the one still standing. I am the one turning to face the faceless hunter in the woods on an abandoned highway. I am the one not running but facing. Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity. And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am the battlefield.

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The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky AlbertalliThe Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 11th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 352
Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back.

There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?

3 Stars

I know, this is a disaster. The Upside of Unrequited – a novel I’ve been looking forward to for months – only received 3 stars from me. I’ll need some Oreos to get over this. Overall, I liked it fine but I’m so disappointed I didn’t like it more. This is Becky Albertalli, after all. I feel like she wanted too many things with this book. The Upside of Unrequited and I just didn’t click. That spark I had with Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda? Inexistent. There was no chemistry between me and this book. That’s a real case of unrequited love right there.

But there’s this awfulness that comes when a guy thinks you like him. It’s as if he’s fully clothed and you’re naked in front of him. It’s like your heart suddenly lives outside your body, and whenever he wants, he can reach out an squeeze it.
Unless he happens to like you back.

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The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas

The Perilous Sea by Sherry ThomasThe Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas
Series: The Elemental Trilogy #2
Published by Balzer + Bray on September 16th, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Pages: 414
Goodreads

After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.

Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother's prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.

3.5 Stars

Sequels are often compared to their predecessor(s), especially when with regard to deciding on a fitting rating, but I can tell you that this did me absolutely no good at all. Because The Perilous Sea seems so fundamentally different from The Burning Sky in many aspects.

The Perilous Sea was an exciting, gripping read and a worthy sequel for this series. The book excelled in taking the tension, the danger, and the action to the next level. Some of the plot twists in this book had me practically gaping.  But I also felt like the overall drama factor was turned up a notch as well, and I don’t know how I feel about that, especially where that puts me with the rating. 

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