Review: Song Of The Current by Sarah Tolscer

Song Of The Current by Sarah Tolscer

Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens Books

Publication Date: June 6th, 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 373 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★ (4 Stars)

*HUGE thanks to Bloomsbury, Netgalley & Sarah Tolscer for the eGalley copy of Song of the Current. All opinions are my own.

Caroline Oresteia is destined for the river. For generations, her family has been called by the river god, who has guided their wherries on countless voyages throughout the Riverlands. At seventeen, Caro has spent years listening to the water, ready to meet her fate. But the river god hasn’t spoken her name yet—and if he hasn’t by now, there’s a chance he never will.

Caro decides to take her future into her own hands when her father is arrested for refusing to transport a mysterious crate. By agreeing to deliver it in exchange for his release, Caro finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies, with dangerous pirates after the cargo—an arrogant courier with a secret—and without the river god to help her. With so much at stake, Caro must choose between the life she always wanted and the one she never could have imagined for herself.

From debut author Sarah Tolcser comes an immersive and romantic fantasy set along the waterways of a magical world with a headstrong heroine determined to make her mark.

Song Of The Current is THE book you must read if you’ve been seeking adventure in the high seas! the main protagonist Caro has a passion & true calling for sailing and adventure, she is an Orestia after all! Caro is waiting for the day that the River God calls her name to meet her fate however, it hasn’t happened & this makes her question if she’s even cut out for the waterways. Nevertheless she continues to work alongside her father taking contracts to smuggle all sorts of goods (some shadier than others). It is when her father is imprisoned for refusing to help smuggle a highly classified item that Caro is forced to take the helm. She plans to get her dad out of prison with or without the help of the river god by fulfilling the contract her father declined. This job will take her far away from the river she knows so well, into the vast ocean & troubled waters where only a true captain & thrill seeker would dare go. Caro has no idea what lies inside the crate she’s been tasked with transporting in exchange for her father’s freedom, only that it’s highly secretive. We follow Caro on an adventure that may seem like fate after all. This book has it all! Privateers VS. Pirates, people of color, politics, its own mythos, frogmen, Gods, feminism, & a bit of romance.

Diversity rules the pages of Song of the Current & I just LIVED for every single character introduction! Starting with Caro our main female protagonist who is described as being darker skinned with  dark reddish colored coiled hair. Although when we meet Caro she is content with life up and down the river alongside her father, we get a sense that hers is a destiny much larger. With Caro, there is nothing traditional & she’s just not having it, this includes any ideologies on being a housewife. Our MC knows what she wants & isn’t afraid to go after it. I loved seeing the strong bond she had with her dad, Father-daughter relationships are my Kryptonite. On their modest ship it’s only three of them: Caro, her dad, and Fee a Frogmen (half human/half frog). They have each others backs and basically just aim to survive until it all changes. Along the way we meet Caro’s mother but I won’t go to much into her role for fear of spoilers. I will say that Caro’s mother is also a POC & that I LOVED her flawed & all! the love interest is another I can’t go into too much detail but I will say that he is the complete opposite of Caro & that the age old saying “opposites attract” would apply here 😉

Song of the Current is THE ULTIMATE! Pirate book so if you’re a hardcore fan of pirates, this is the book you’re going to want to read. Down to the lingo used in the dialogue, you’re getting pirate talk which made for a more authentic reading experience. Earlier in the year I read & LOVED Daughter of the Pirate King (MUST READ! Lol) but I also came across reviewers who felt they didn’t get the full on Pirate experience. Song of the Current will satisfy those looking for a Pirates of the Caribbean experience. The pacing however, if i’m being completely honest, was a bit on the slower side to start. However, I was never bored and the the story itself hooked me in (see what I did there? ehhh) from the very start. The love interest wasn’t my favorite but I’m beginning to see more & more of that in YA Fantasy with strong female heroines. My thoughts on the romance are that it isn’t made to take center stage to Caro’s story & in that sense I was OK with it, her feelings are explained in the book. The world building was A+ from the lingo, clothing, way of life, and mythos behind the Gods. This is book 1 in what I think is a duology? (correct me if I’m wrong) & the ending (one of my faves) was perfect! just enough to make me want to come back for more. After-all, Caros fate awaits her…

Have any of you bookworms picked this one up yet? If you have, how did this adventure fare with you? excited for the sequel? let me know in the comments 😉

ARC Review: Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

Publisher: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: June 13th, 2017

Genre: YA Contemp/Diverse

Pages: 352 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 Stars)

*Trigger warning: attempted rape

*HUGE thanks to Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster, Netgalley & S.K. Ali for the eGalley copy of Saints and Misfits

Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?

Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tight knit Muslim community think of her then?

Before I get into my review of this wonderful gemstone of a book, I’d like to include two #Ownvoices reviews I found on Goodreads. Both Leenahreads (Muslim & Arab) & Hadeer (Muslim & Egyptian) give a perspective that is much needed in the community & appreciated by this bookworm. Also, today is the release day for Saints and Misfits & on behalf of LairOfBooks, I’d like to wish S.K. Ali a very happy book birthday!!!

In Saints and Misfits we follow our main protagonist Janna Yusuf who is a Arab Indian-American hijabi teen navigating life within her Muslim community & High School. Janna finds herself having a major crush on Jeremy, a Irish student in her school that is non-Muslim. With these feelings come a slew of questions we get to see Janna find answers to along the way. We are introduced to Janna’s family & friends as well as the community she is very involved with. The daughter of divorced/co-parenting parents, living with her mom & slightly older brother…Janna & her family are already viewed as different within their own community. Having a crush on a non-Muslim boy complicates things for her & to add to her plate, she’s harboring a hurtful secret. Janna doesn’t know whether she will be believed if she speaks up since the secret is about a respected individual in the community. This is a story about self reflection, family, community, identity, friendship, strength, faith & courage to face your fears.

Ever come across a fictional character who has qualities you yourself wish you possessed? such is the case with my admiration of Janna Yusuf. She is by no means perfect but strong willed and firm in her beliefs. Like any teenager she deals with High School crushes and social pressures both on & offline. Seeing her navigate through certain situations gives you a feeling that you’re reading one confident character. For the most part Janna is confident which was refreshing, I loved seeing her take pride in wearing Hijab. Janna’s sarcasm proved to be one of my fave qualities since witty characters always win me over. Perhaps my most favorite trait of Jannas is her interactions with those around her & how empathetic she is even when she doesn’t want to be lol. I also loved the relationship between Janna and her slightly older brother Muhammad. Throughout the book Janna’s older brother is courting another Muslim girl his age & he has asked Janna to supervise their dates. Janna does so even though she’s not a fan of his romantic interest & in doing so we get to see them spend more time around one another. It was nice seeing Muhammad be so attentive to Janna that he was able to pick up on there being something wrong. His genuine concern for his little sister made me wish he was my big brother *sobs*

Janna also has a non-Muslim bestie  who I’m just going to go ahead and say it….Tats = Ride or Die Bestie for life! Tats is such an amazing friend to Janna & respectful of her beliefs even when social pressure got in the mix. Of course they had moments where Tats didn’t understand fully but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Ultimately Tats respected Janna & had her back, love seeing positive f/f relationships. Lastly, one of my fave characters was Mr. Ram who lived in Janna’s complex and who Janna would take to/from a community center for the elderly. Mr. Ram has a passion for poetry & for encouraging Janna to pursue what makes her happy whether it’s sketching or photography. He imparted so much wisdom to Janna & just loved life so much his good spirits were contagious right through the page. There were many other characters in this book but I fear that going into them all would take away from the fun it was getting to know them. Overall, an amazing cast of characters!

I have so much love for this book I don’t even know where to start honestly! as a diverse blogger, I know the importance of seeing these books on our shelves. Most recently I read a Latinx YA book that left me smiling from ear to ear because I saw myself on the pages. In reading reviews such as the ones I linked in the intro to my review, I get a sense that this will be the case for many Muslim, Hijab, Arab, Indian-American readers. I can honestly say this book gave me so much more than a few hours of enjoyment, the lessons I took away are of much higher value. S.K. Ali organically wove bits & pieces of culture, religion, and faith throughout Saints and Misfits making for a rich reading experience. Our main protagonist is holding onto a hurtful secret & Ali gives us a realistic view of the situation. What it really would be like to expose a religious leader & the ugly truth of it all. A strong message is delivered ,many will stand against you but also, many will stand WITH you. The strong theme of community at the core plays an integral role in Janna’s life & I believe Ali captured that well with Saints and Misfits. I 100% reccomend this book to any & all, I just can’t wait to read more from S.K. Ali! 🙂

Will you be picking up Saints and Misfits today? If you’ve already read & reviewed, please drop a link & I’ll most def swing by your corner of the interwebz 😉

Review: The Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King

The Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King

Publisher: Skyscape

Publication Date: June 1st, 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 300 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★ (4 Stars)

*HUGE thanks to Skyscape, Netgalley & Emily R. King for the eGalley copy of The Hundredth Queen

As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.

But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.

Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her.

In Emily R. King’s thrilling fantasy debut, an orphan girl blossoms into a warrior, summoning courage and confidence in her fearless quest to upend tradition, overthrow an empire, and reclaim her life as her own.

The Hundredth Queen centers around Kalinda who was really trying to live a low key life in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple where she’s lived all her life as a orphan. Prone to strange fevers, Kalinda isn’t able to train as the other sisters do in the ways of the sister warrior Ki. Spending her days sketching or in the infirmary is what she is used to. Due to her sickness, she isn’t the strongest or what they’d consider the prettiest either. A moment of righteousness shines a spotlight on her placing her on Rajah Tarek’s path. She is selected as his One Hundredth Queen & yanked out of the one true home she ever knew. Taken to the palace as a wife is considered by many in the Sisterhood to be a privilege and a honor. Rajah Tarek has wives & consorts all living in the palace separated by position (wives vs. consorts) but the One Hundredth Queen holds a very special place. See, the One hundredth has the luck of being open to challenges. Any consort may challenge Kalinda for her position in the tournaments held whenever the Rajah brings a new wife to the palace. The difference here is that since she will be his last wife, it will also be the tournament to end all tournaments. This would be the only opportunity for any of the courtesans to knock Kalinda off her highly esteemed position. From the moment she enters the palace walls, all eyes are on her and she is sized up for some as competition and others a threat. Kalinda may not be the strongest however, deep within her she holds a power that is old and unknown to her. The underlying emphasis placed on friendships between women was one of my favorite aspects of this book. The Hundredth Queen is filled with lush world building, action, cunning, betrayal, and plenty of curve balls you won’t see coming.

The characters in The Hundredth Queen are primarily female, we first get introduced to Kalinda’s best friend Jaya. the friendship between these two was more akin to blood sisters than friends & it was refreshing to see them look out for one another. Once selected as the one hundredth, she is escorted by the Rajah’s captain of the guards, Deven. This character serves as a love interest to Kalinda & I must admit he felt a bit lack luster to me lol but to others he may be swoon worthy 😉 he did manage to grow on me but that was more towards the final chapters. Once in the palace where the Rajah’s wives & courtesans live, we meet some very interesting women to keep an eye on. Starting with the one to fear the most. the Rajah’s Kindred aka 1st wife. She is not playing nice & throughout the book Kalinda must watch her back at all times. The Rajah himself is a worm! baha! I knew I wouldn’t like him the minute I read the Goodreads blurb. The man is a polygamist who has some deep rooted issues with women & there were plenty of times I wanted to square off with him lol. I was left very intrigued by Deven’s brother who shares the same powers as Kalinda (shhhh secret!) and others like them introduced towards the end. I’m hoping to get to know them better in the next book, also Deven’s brother was way more alluring to me jeje.  The characters are not the most fleshed out you’ll come across in Fantasy seeing as this one is more plot driven, but they do let you get to know them just enough to want to know more.

Overall The Hundredth Queen is filled with the magic and fantasy it promises in the blurb. I did wonder when I started reading whether this was truly YA considering it’s a story about a polygamist tyrant. Although there weren’t any sexual scenes depicted, it was implied given the nature of this book. I was honestly swept away by the story itself that my loathing for the Rajah was ever present but it didn’t prove to be an obstacle in my enjoyment of this story. I do wish Kalinda as a character was a bit more fleshed out but there’s plenty of implied growth for the sequel that I’m looking forward to. In regards to the world building, I am aware that there’s some buzz on the author’s inspiration. King does preface the book with a Author’s Note that briefly states the following:

“The religion of the Tarachand Empire, the Parijana faith, is a fictional variation derived from Sumerian deities. However the Parjina faith and the Tarachand Empire do not directly represent any specific historical time period, creed , or union. Any other religious or governmental similarities are coincidental and do not depict actual people or events”

To be honest, it didn’t seem like any one particular culture/religion rather bits and pieces gathered to create this fantasy setting. I’ve made my rounds reading reviews & looking out for solid issues found within this book & I have not yet found one. On the contrary, I have seen readers who are cautious & insightful when reading/reviewing diverse books, give The Hundredth Queen the green light of approval. I may be wrong, and if there are any solid reviews out there providing insight, I’ll def read them. For now, I’ll sign off by saying that I look forward to Kalinda’s continued adventures in the sequel The Fire Queen 😉

Have you read The Hundredth Queen? Isn’t the cover gorgeous?!? have you seen the cover for the sequel?!?! *heart eyes*

 

Review: Eliza And Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eliza And Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: May 30th, 2017

Genre: YA Contemporary

Pages: 400 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 Stars)

*Trigger Warning: Suicide & attempted suicide

*HUGE thanks to HarperCollins, Edelweiss & Francesca Zappia for the ARC copy of Eliza And Her Monsters.

Eighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk is the anonymous creator of Monstrous Sea, a wildly popular webcomic, but when a new boy at school tempts her to live a life offline, everything she’s worked for begins to crumble.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, smart, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of a popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans throughout the world, Eliza’s persona is popular. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community. Then Wallace Warland transfers to her school, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart. With pages from Eliza’s webcomic, as well as screenshots from Eliza’s online forums, this uniquely formatted book will appeal to fans of Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.

 Oh this book! *fangirl moment* I can’t stop thinking about Eliza, Wallace, her monsters, and her online friends! When we first meet Eliza she is chatting online with friends she made through her creation Monstrous Sea, a web comic that has blown up world wide. Max aka Apocalypse_Cow & Emme aka emmersnacks are the only 2 people who know Eliza’s real identity. To the world she’s known as LadyConstellation, to Max & Emme she’s just Eliza aka MirkerLurker (private screen name lol). Her whole life revolves around her webcomic & avoiding outdoor activities with her mom, dad, and younger brothers. In school she’s pretty much a loner with not a single friend on site. That is up until she meets Wallace aka the new guy in school who appears in every sense to be a jock if we’re talking physical build alone. Wallace is tall with broad shoulders & prefers to sit alone with a notebook & pen. An odd encounter (no spoilers here jeje) forces Eliza to cross paths with Wallace. What they don’t know is that they actually share a lot in common & both harbor secret identities 😉

We get to see Eliza’s Monstrous Sea web-comic in bits & pieces sprinkled throughout the book. Eliza takes Monstrous Sea & her fan-base very seriously, making sure to post every Friday at the same hour. She’s an amazing illustrator & spends days working on each page she posts weekly, leaving little to no time for anything else. Monstrous Sea isn’t just some silly pass time for Eliza & she does make a profit from the MS Merch she sells online with the help of Max & Emme. When her parents start trying to get her to come out of the house more & be more active, she retreats further away. It is inevitable for her online life to clash with with her offline life (won’t say “real life” cuz Eliza doesn’t like this phrase lol). Once both collide, we begin to see what issues lie beneath…

Eliza is a introvert who finds it easier to make friends & connect with people over the web which isn’t as rare as one would think nowadays. She has social anxiety holding her back from making friends in school or attending social events. Online, she comes alive & I just loved her chat DM’s with Max & Emme. They may have never met but they exchange care packages & know about each others personal lives as well. I’ve made these types of friendships & can honestly say they have turned into amazing ones offline as well. I was able to connect with Eliza’s online comfort and social anxiety but I also gained some outsider perspective from her family. Although in spurts, we do get to know Emme & Max who I LOVED! they help Eliza keep Monstrous Sea operating from banning trolls to site maintenance & her online store. They also genuinely care about Eliza & I kept wishing they lived closer to her. Wallace! OMG *heart eyes* a big guy with a big heart who only managed to upset me once in this book haha! Loved that he didn’t fit the stereotypical mode set for Jocks, Zappia def gives you a vivid image of Wallace. He also has a past & getting to know his side added the depth we were given with Eliza. We get to meet the families for both Eliza & Wallace which gave us a better understanding of underlying issues. I also took away a few lessons from Eliza’s parents & the importance of keeping up with social media when you have kids. Overall these characters were well fleshed out down to Eliza’s fictional monsters 😉

 This is my 1st Zappia book & at first I did not make the connection that she is the author behind Made You Up, a book that has been recommended to me by many close bookworm buddies. A book that i’m ashamed to say has sat on my e-book shelf for far too long. I am more than eager to get to it now that I’ve read & loved Eliza and Her Monsters. The writing style used wasn’t your conventional straight text, instead we get chat DM’s & pieces of her web-comic sprinkled throughout. I felt like I was getting a 2 for 1 deal because I found myself thoroughly enjoying Eliza’s Monstrous Sea. I would LOVE to see more of it in a spin-off or anything really just MORE lol. On a more serious note from what I’ve read about Made You Up, this isn’t Zappia’s first YA book tackling mental illness. In this book we see social anxiety take a toll on Eliza & it all felt very real to me as I was reading her experiencing a panic attack. As someone who deals with anxiety & panic attacks myself, seeing mental health representation in books gives me a much deeper appreciation for authors like Zappia. I hope she continues to write about these topics as I’m sure they’re helping many others. I highly recommend this read to all of my bookworm bloggers/readers since i’m sure we all have a little Eliza in all of us 😉

 Monstrous Sea art by Francesca Zappia found on Monstrous Sea Tumblr

Have any of my bloggers/readers read Eliza And Her Monsters? or perhaps, plan to? also, any fun fandoms you follow? 🙂

Review: New Boy by Tracy Chevalier

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier

Publisher: Hogarth

Publication Date: May 11th, 2017

Genre: Fiction/Re-telling

Pages: 204 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★ (4 Stars)

*Cover = Goodreads

From the New York Times bestselling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring comes the fifth installment in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, a modern retelling of Othello set in a suburban schoolyard

Arriving at his fifth school in as many years, a diplomat’s son, Osei Kokote, knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day so he’s lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can’t stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.

The tragedy of Othello is transposed to a 1970’s suburban Washington schoolyard, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practice a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers. Peeking over the shoulders of four 11 year olds Osei, Dee, Ian, and his reluctant girlfriend Mimi, Tracy Chevalier’s powerful drama of friends torn apart by jealousy, bullying and betrayal will leave you reeling.

This is my first read from the Hogarth Shakespeare collection & it will not be the last. Originally I had plans to start with another Hogarth title, Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed but I’m glad I opted to go with this one. A short read coming in at just about 200 pgs., New Boy by Tracey Chevalier packs a hell of a punch! Seeing as this is a short book, I decided to go with my thoughts & not go too in depth with plot for fear of spoilers. I was drawn to this book once I read “tragedy of Othello is transposed to a 1970’s suburban Washington schoolyard” in the Goodreads blurb & thought YES PLEASE! I was the kid in Junior High School who actually enjoyed the classics & read as many as possible (prob why I read so much YA now lol) so this was like music to my 7th grade self. This will def not be the last Hogarth title I read, I found the writing easily accessible when compared to the Ol’ legend Shakespeare himself. I’m all for a modern take on the classics when it’s done right & Tracy Chevalier delivered a poignant re-telling.

95% of this story takes place in the school yard & the main characters are 6th graders aka the seniors. We follow our main character Osei Kokote who has just transferred into the school about 7 mths prior to graduation. Osei is the son of a diplomat & no stranger to being the new boy in school/playground. This school however is a bit tougher to adjust to with Osei being the only child or for that matter, the only person of color. Osei is a very quiet, observant, and wise for his age child. Still, at the end of the day he is just a child in a all white school during the Nixon era which sadly made him the target. We see the trickle down effects of racism from the adults to the children. The atmosphere on the playground changes whenever Osei is around & the tension is palpable to the reader. From the children staring & whispering to the teachers who immediately peg him as a problem child, the build up leaves you with a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach.

I felt a range of emotions reading New Boy, anger was a big one. Chevalier didn’t hold back, providing us with the POV’s of both the children and the teachers. Many times I found myself wondering who was worse, the children who were taught to hate a skin color or the teachers with racism embedded in their hearts. Osei made one friend on that playground, Dee who found herself fascinated by him because he was different. Dee found herself wanting to spend all her time with Osei, talking about all he had seen while traveling with his parents. The attention Dee gave Osei was immediately noticed by all others. Playgrounds are known to be the scene of many dramatic events between friends and foes. Also, they typically have some sort of hierarchy with cliques that form & dissolve at the blink of an eye. This story has it’s bully aka aggressor, his name is Ian & throughout the course of this book we see him plot & scheme. Although you see the typical childhood dramas unfold, it isn’t without an underlying sense of danger.

This book made me think for days about what the younger generations are being taught at home. Not the lessons you get from books but rather the ones passed on by the older generations. How racism isn’t something you are born with, it is taught. The kids in this book were repeating things they heard at home but lacked conviction. There were moments when they included Osei in games & you almost thought they’d forgotten they feared him. Then an incident would occur & serve as a reminder of who they were taught to keep their distance from. I’ve never had a book invoke this much emotion to leave me shaking, making New Boy a read I’ll never forget. It’s short & to the point. Raw & unapologetic til the very last sentence. A relevant read given our current social & political climate. I highly recommend this one to all my book blogging buddies & readers. If you do decide to pick this one up, feel free to contact me to talk about this read.

Have any of you read New Boy or perhaps have plans to? if so (w/out spoilers), what are your thoughts? Also, if you’ve read any of the other books in the Hogarth collection, which would you recommend I read next?

Review: The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger

The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger

Publisher: Touchstone

Publication Date: May 16th, 2017

Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Suspense

Pages: 359 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 Stars)

*Trigger Warning: Rape

Cover = Goodreads

What is the difference between justice and revenge? In this buzzworthy new standalone thriller by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Unger, two wronged women on very different paths find themselves in the same dark place…

Claudia Bishop’s perfect life fell apart when the aftermath of a brutal assault left her with a crumbling marriage, a newborn daughter, and a constant sense of anxiety about the world around her. Now, looking for a fresh start with a home restoration project and growing blog, Claudia takes on a crumbling old house—one that unbeknownst to her has an ugly history and may hide long buried secrets.

For Zoey Drake the defining moment of her childhood was the horrific home invasion murder of her parents. Years later, she has embraced the rage that fuels her. Training in the martial arts has made her strong and ready to face the demons from the past—and within.

Strangers to each other, and walking very different paths in the wake of trauma, these two women are on a collision course—because Zoey’s past nightmare and Claudia’s dreams for her future take place in the very same house. As Zoey seeks justice, and Claudia seeks peace, both will confront the monsters at the door that are the most frightening of all.

The majority of this year has been dedicated to my YA titles but a change of pace was needed. Typically I turn to the thriller/Suspense genre whenever I’m in need of a good palette cleanser. Sometime last year I read Lisa Unger’s Ink and Bone & was hooked from page 1 to the very last. When I started seeing The Red Hunter’s beautiful splash of red all over my Bookstagram feed, I sent a little prayer to the Book Gods & went to see if Netgalley was offering it for review & the rest is history lol. I read the majority of this book in 1 day (60%), Lisa Unger once again delivered a immersive page turner. We get introduced to these two women who have been through traumatic experiences & somehow the reader knows their paths are fated to cross in some way.

Claudia is a rape survivor & we get to see her aftermath, she has a teenage daughter who may or may not be from her attacker. Her life has been turned upside down but she has chosen to re-build away from all of that by moving away from the city. I really enjoyed Claudia’s character, she has battle scars & yet she perseveres to find her peace. She has this love for places that have that lived in feel & so picking up and going to the country side to try & renovate her dads old house fit her personality so well. The parts where we see her blogging (some entries from her blog included) about her trauma & the home renovation were some of my fave parts. It did seem at times like she couldn’t catch a break with some of the decisions she made lol but that just added to her charm. We also get to follow her Daughter Raven’s POV. Raven knows all about her mom’s rape since they’ve chosen to be very honest, we get to see her search for more answers.

Zoey survived the murder of her parents when she was just a kid. Through a home invasion, both of her parents are tied up & asked to divulge the location of 1 million dollars (lots of backstory here but spoilers lol). Her parents are ultimately killed and Zoey herself is hurt & tortured. Fast Forward to the present & now we have someone who is searching for justice. She has taken up martial arts classes & excelled in training. You get the feeling that Zoey is traveling with a “dark passenger” (for fans of Dexter lol). Although she has re-built her life with the help of her uncle Paul (retired detective), she hasn’t been able to put her demons to rest. I LOVE morally ambiguous characters & I got that with Zoey who has taken so many hits that I found myself rooting for her to strike back!

The cast of characters in Red Hunter is bigger than these two leading ladies. We get to meet a lot of the people who have formed their support system as well. From Claudia, we have her daughter Raven & her ex husband. Zoey who comes from a cop family, has her uncle Paul, her martial arts teacher who is also a retired cop, and other cops as well who are still in her life. Unger manages to keep all players on the chess board while she weaves their story lines together. Once again she’s left me with fictional characters I love & will always remember.

The Red Hunter is up there for top faves of 2017 & cements my love for Lisa Unger. She is now an auto-buy author for me & I will be keeping an eye out for anything & everything she puts out. I don’t want to get into the plot too much because that would lead to spoilers & take away the fun. The Goodreads blurb does a good job of summing it up w/out ruining anything. There’s so much story in these 359 pages & seeing her skills with weaving the lives in this story together leaves you in awe…FLAWLESS! Perhaps what I love the most about her writing style is her ability to deliver characters I can’t help getting invested in. I genuinely end up caring about where their roads lead which leads to my want for a series from this author *silent prayer to the book Gods* Lastly, the mark of every Unger book would have to be her settings. This time the story took place mostly in the country in that house Claudia is renovating. Yet just like the Hollows in Ink and Bone, you can’t help but see the house as its own character. It has a soul & holds a dark & violent past making for a very atmospheric read. I hands down highly recommend The Red Hunter to all readers & please can we get more Lisa 😉

*Thank you Touchstone, Netgalley, and Lisa Unger for the opportunity to read a eGalley copy of The Red Hunter in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Have any of you awesome bookworms read or plan to read The Red Hunter? if you have, which character was your favorite?

Review: The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

Publisher: Macmillan

Publication Date: May 16th, 2017

Genre: YA Contemporary/LGBTQIA

Pages: 384 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★ (4 Stars)

Cover = Goodreads

Amazon/Barnes & Noble

*HUGE thanks to Macmillan, Netgalley, and Cale Dietrich for the eGalley of The Love Interest in exchange for a honest review. All opinions are my own.

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

If you’re anything like me, after reading the Goodreads blurb for The Love Interest, you immediately got This Means War vibes. You know? the one with Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and Tom Hardy? yea, that would be the one! & just like the rom-com, The Love Interest doesn’t take itself too seriously & this alone made it a fun read. This book is a satire of all those YA tropes we either love or hate. It’s self aware & as such, is chock full of laugh out loud moments that will leave you shaking your head. We first get introduced to the love interests Caden & Dylan while they’re in the facility that houses others like them while they get all of the necessary spy training. A spy is said to have been taken from their home (voluntary/involuntary is unknown) from childhood & sorted based on personality to either be a Bad or a Nice. Depending on which you were sorted under, you’d receive specific training & skill sets to ultimately be paired up with a person of importance in the outside world. Julia is a high school student who is set to have her pick of universities based on the fact that she is a GENIUS inventor. Targeted as a V.I.P. by the secret organization that deals with selling secrets for top dollar, Julia has no idea she’s about to be highly sought out. Caden is a Nice & Dylan is a Bad, both sent in to better the odds of Julia picking one of them as her love interest. These guys go out of their way to woe Julia in their own ways & will offer you non-stop entertainment. However, it’s not all fun & games for these guys who have the constant threat of death over their heads if they fail. Whoever Julia doesn’t choose will be put to death which only serves as motivation in the race to Julia’s heart. What happens when a Love Interest falls in love for someone other than their intended target? *GASP*

Told in first person point of view, we get Caden (the Nice) as our narrator. Caden is your cliche blonde guy with blue eyes and abs for days haha! I don’t want to give away too much but just know that the spy organization plays no games when it comes to perfecting their love interests. Caden will come off as self absorbed & I believe it’s purposely done. I love my YA books but if we’re being honest, we all know that Caden is a representation of what we see as the male lead interest. Now Dylan doesn’t fall short either lol he plays the broody bad boy, so dark & mysterious with his book of poetry & leather jacket. Then we have Julia who is a a genius inventor in high school who has that quiet beauty. She’s so focused on her inventions that dating isn’t at the forefront. By the end of this book, Julia was hands down my favorite of the characters but no spoilers here lol. We get two other supporting characters, Natalie & Trevor who also attend the same high school and are in a relationship. They also happen to be best friends with Julia & so we get to see them join in on the battle of the Nice vs. Bad. These characters are over the top versions of what we see in the YA genre & I enjoyed the satirical take. I’ve seen other reviews critique the one-dimensional characters which is true…but I don’t think the author set out to have us connect with these extremely tropey characters. If you’re looking for characters you can connect with, this isn’t the book for you. This is the book you pick up if you’ve read tons of YA, love it to death but can still poke fun at the many tropes we often see in our beloved books.

This is Cale Dietrich’s debut album & I love that it was so much fun to read. I took it for what it presented itself to be…a parody of all the YA tropes you can possibly find in the YA genre lol. I laughed so hard reading this book, an overall good time. Those who have been with my blog for a while now know how much I love YA & that I read/review tons of it. I also love good humor and The Love Interest provided a few hours of comedy. I docked it a star simply because it wrapped up too quickly in the end. I recommend this one for all those looking for some light hearted fun & a plot that will keep you guessing the outcome 😉

The Love Interest is out today (links to buy can be found at the very top), have any of you awesome bookworms picked up a copy? if you’ve already read it, what are some of your thoughts?

Review: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Publisher: Amulet Books

Publication Date: May 2nd, 2017

Genre: YA Contemporary/LGBTQIA

Pages: 400 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★ (4 Stars)

Cover = Goodreads

*HUGE thanks to Amulet Books, Netgalley, and Riley Redgate for the eGalley of Noteworthy in exchange for a honest review. All opinions are my own.

A cappella just got a makeover.

Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options.

In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshipped…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.

Jordan finds herself enmeshed in a precarious juggling act: making friends, alienating friends, crushing on a guy, crushing on a girl, and navigating decades-old rivalries. With her secret growing heavier every day, Jordan pushes beyond gender norms to confront what it means to be a girl (and a guy) in a male-dominated society, and—most importantly—what it means to be herself.

In another case of “The Goodreads Blurb Does It Best” lol, I’ll try my best not to reiterate what’s listed above. Noteworthy by Riley Redgate is one of the most unique Young Adult books I’ve come across in a long time. I knew I had to request it when I saw it pop up on Netgalley simply because I am a big fan of the Pitch Perfect movies & most recently the Pentatonix. As a matter of fact I am listening to Bohemian Rhapsody by Pentatonix while typing up this review 😉 Acapella as a whole has always interested me possibly because as mentioned in this book, there’s humor in it. The idea of a student cross dressing in order to join a all male Acapella group & leading a double life…sounds exhausting no? Jordan Sun manages to pull off try outs for Kensington’s uber popular & exclusively all male Acapella group the Sharpshooters securing the 8th spot in the group.

She goes on to live on campus as both Jordan and Julian successfully since for the most part, she has no friends on campus. After her in school boyfriend broke up with her, Jordan realized that she had made him her center focus & that with him gone, she is pretty much alone on campus. Jordan has a small group of gal pals back in California, but life in New York attending Kensington Blair has pretty much isolated her from them. Attending Kensington also hasn’t been without it’s challenges, Jordan’s parents are struggling to keep food on the table & we see her spend holiday breaks alone on campus to avoid burdening her parents with the cost of travel. Jordan’s dad is also disabled & the subpar healthcare system in the United States is briefly touched upon. We see Jordan going through her day to day routine while handling the very sobering reality that is her financial situation.

“The problem was the money this place asked us to drop on textbooks and supplies, even those of us on financial aid. A lot of other boarding schools were adopting full-ride scholarship options that paid for books, travel, laptops-the whole deal. Kensington hadn’t caught on yet. Every semester, I calculated my textbook costs, usually three or four hundred dollars, and prayed it was offset by the money my parents weren’t spending to feed me”

In getting accepted into the Sharpshooters as Julian, she finds a home away from home with a distinct group of guys. We get to see Jordan’s perspective as “one of the guys” when she’s dressed as Julian. Jordan’s insider pass grants her access to male friendships & bonds as well as the first stirrings of sexism in young males. As we see Jordan grow accustomed & more comfortable living as Julian, we see her question her sexuality & identity. Noteworthy touched on so many subjects that are not written about as much in YA making it a much more relatable read.

Noteworthy has to have one of the most unique and awesome cast of characters in YA at the moment…I’ve convinced myself of this lol. Starting with our main protagonist Jordan aka Julian a Chinese-American student attending a boarding school in NYC, I’ll be honest and say that it took me a bit to warm up to her during the beginning chapters. I almost felt like she was in a haze going through every day life which I pinned most of on her stress levels lol. It was hard to connect with her in the beginning but then you see her start to develop & show her personality and I started to look forward to her coming & goings. She does mention that as Julian, she feels a confidence that is missing as Jordan. The Sharpshooters are as follows:

Trav- leader of the Sharpshooters, also composes pieces for the group & takes his position very seriously (barely cracks a smile lol)

Jon Cox- is your typical popular guy with good looks & a little muscle only he is described as having an operatic voice

Mama or Theodore-My 2nd fave, Theodore was given the nickname Mama for his tendency to clean. He is described as a big lovable guy who also happens to be Jon Cox’s roommate & best friend. He’s described as having the type of deep voice you’d find in movie trailers

Nihal-hands down my FAVE of the group! Nihal is also a Tenor 1 like Jordan, he introduces himself as being Sikh & not Muslim, Indian & from Jersey who wears his turban. Nihal is very outspoken, sarcastic (LOVE!), and loyal

Isaac-Trav’s right hand man, is described as being a tall man bun rocking type of guy. He’s lively & often times the glue that holds everyone together

The 2 Rooks aka Freshmen Erik & Marcus- these 2 guys get stuck with all the grunt work since they’re freshmen & pretty much operate as one.
Riley Redgate gave each of these characters a distinct voice making it very easy to follow each one & learn their individual character traits. All very well fleshed out, these characters were a ton of fun 😉
 With Noteworthy, Redgate has gifted the YA genre with a magically diverse book. I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel reading about a cisgender character cross dressing. These concerns are addressed when Jordan thinks of the Transgender community and how they’d feel if her secret of cross dressing for a spot in the group were to be revealed. In many ways, this book felt very much aware of the tough topics it was trying to grasp. I appreciated that it included many issues that we often do not see in YA such as socioeconomics, Healthcare, and disability as it pertains to the head of household. I also really appreciated the Chinese-American cultural experience we got a glimpse of through Jordan’s character. The fact that this is a Own Voices YA book only added to my love for it. On another note, I do wish that Jordan’s sexuality was explored a bit more because we were seeing her question her sexuality as well as the gender she identifies with.  This is one of the reasons I docked it a star, Jordan’s development towards the end felt unaddressed. The other reason would be strictly pacing which was a bit slow in the beginning. I’ve heard other readers say that Noteworthy is a much quieter read than it appears & I’d have to say that I agree. Around the 40% mark it does pick up & maintains until the very last page. I highly recommend Noteworthy to lovers of diversity & Acapella 😉

Have any of you awesome bookworms picked up a copy of Noteworthy?  if you’ve already read it, which character was your favorite? and why? <3<3<3

Review: A Million Junes by Emily Henry

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A Million Junes by Emily Henry

Publisher: Razorbill

Publication Date: May 16th, 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/Magical Realism/Contemp

Pages: 350 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 Stars)

*HUGE thanks to Razorbill and Emily Henry for the ARC copy of A Million Junes.

goodreads-synopsis-2

Romeo and Juliet meets One Hundred Years of Solitude in Emily Henry’s brilliant follow-up to The Love That Split the World, about the daughter and son of two long-feuding families who fall in love while trying to uncover the truth about the strange magic and harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations.

In their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, the O’Donnells and the Angerts have mythic legacies. But for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them, except to say it began with a cherry tree.

Eighteen-year-old Jack “June” O’Donnell doesn’t need a better reason than that. She’s an O’Donnell to her core, just like her late father was, and O’Donnells stay away from Angerts. Period.

But when Saul Angert, the son of June’s father’s mortal enemy, returns to town after three mysterious years away, June can’t seem to avoid him. Soon the unthinkable happens: She finds she doesn’t exactly hate the gruff, sarcastic boy she was born to loathe.

Saul’s arrival sparks a chain reaction, and as the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers conspire to reveal the truth about the dark moment that started the feud, June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored. And she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all of the O’Donnells before her—to let go.

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At first glance, A Million Junes is hands down a Romeo & Juliet re-telling in the country. However, at its core A Million Junes can also read as a open love letter from a father to his daughter. June O’Donell lives with her mom, stepdad, and half brothers in Five Fingers Michigan where the O’Donell’s are sort of famous in their own right. June’s dad who passed away, made sure June knew to stay away from the Angerts aka the other infamous family in Five Fingers. The bad blood has run for 3 generations however, no one can pinpoint the exact moment the feud started or the cause of it. Both the O’Donell’s & the Angerts believe they’ve been cursed so that whenever their paths cross (often they do) bad things happen. June’s dad may no longer be living but this doesn’t stop June’s mom from continuing to keep a healthy distance from the Angerts. This of course all changes when June goes to the fair with her best bestfriend Hannah & bumps into Saul Angert. Saul is a few years older than June & has just returned from a pricey artsy school for writers. No one really knows why he’s back in town other than that he is staying with his dad who was a former top bestselling author. Although Saul has heard all about the curse over both their families, he is a non-believer and crossing paths with June soon changes that. For June is a O’Donell through & through, she believes in the curse and in the magic thrumming in Five Fingers. She sees a spirit with a pink feathery aura & a fox who appears every so often in their backyard waiting for them to give it their shoes. To June, her dad was a hero and a wonderful story teller & she believed each and every last story no matter how outlandish they may have seemed at the time. The more June tries to avoid Saul, the more they are thrown together. The spirits in and around her home are trying to tell her something, they keep transporting her to others memories. Memories of her dad from his recollection when she was just a little girl. Each & every time the “Whites” (aka little puffs of white that can be seen on her windows) come to show her a new memory, June gets to know her dad a little more. Everything she thought she knew to be true may or may not be a fact. To June, these trips to the past through the “whites” offer her so much insight on her father, grandfather, and great grandfather but are they harmless? And can June let go of what she & every O’Donell before her has always believed in & follow her heart?…

Starting with Five Fingers, this town is its own character filled with spirits, ghosts, and forest animals that steal your shoes. I fell in love with this strange little town even though at times it did creep me out just a little bit. Everything from the famous O’Donnell Cherry tree to the haunted lake kept me hooked in Five Fingers. June herself is sarcastic and blunt, making her a fun character to follow. Her best friend Hannah is one of my new fave sidekicks! From their own made up way of greeting eacother to how she has June’s back no matter what, Hannah is an instant fave. This right here was A+ female friendship goals 🙌🏼 Saul Angert aka the Romeo in this book, wasn’t THE BEST on the interesting meter but he scored some major brownie points towards the end. Now, last but not least is June’s dad. Although deceased, he is definitely a character all throughout this book. We get to know him and his love for June in a way perhaps that wouldn’t have been possible if were alive. He clearly had tons of love for June, enough for it to transcend beyond the veil of the living & dead. It was this relationship in particular that will stay with me for a lifetime. I myself lost my dad, a man who loved to tell stories just like June’s dad & I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I picked this book up…I’m glad I did though 😉 these characters are endearing, strange, and filled with magic.

I’m usually very weary when it comes to Magical Realism & A Million June’s was no exception. I love MR but it’s not always an easy experience to read & enjoy. This book is for those that may even be a little intimidated by Magical Realism. I found the writing style to be easy to digest which only heightened my level of enjoyment. This was a very atmospheric read that will ask you suspend all disbelief which I found myself doing immediately (leave it a Fantasy lover lol) once I entered the town of Five Fingers. I mentioned in the beginning that on the surface this is inspired by Rome & Juliet however, it was so much more than that. By the time I finished the last sentence I found myself in a puddle of tears at the realization that this story is more about a father’s love for his daughter. I’ve never read anything by Henry but now I am absolutely buying her last book The Love That Split The World if only to get a bit more of her unique writing style 😉

Have any of my bookish peeps read A Million Junes? or are planning to? Sound off in the comments below <3’s! 

Also, if any of you have read The Love That Split The World please let me know if I should pick up a copy 😉

Review: Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Flame In The Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: May 16th, 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 368 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 Stars)

HUGE thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, and Renee Ahdieh for the ARC copy of Flame in the Mist.

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.

A Fantasy with a feudal Japanese setting?!?! YES PLEASE! I wasn’t expecting to love my 1st Ahideh book SO MUCH! but I’m so glad that I did. When we first meet our main protagonist Mariko, we hear her internal thoughts on what it means to be born female vs. male. She isn’t at all acceptant of the old school ideals & traditions of her culture but is also very mindful & respectful of her parents wishes. On her way to Inako, the city of her betrothed, her carriage is attacked with intent to kill. Mariko does manage to escape, and it is her ingenuity that drives her to take the clothes off one of the attackers & go undercover dressed as a boy. It is her belief that the attack is the work of the Black Clan & infiltrating their ranks will lead her to answers. Her course quickly changes however, when she is captured by the Black Clan and taken back to their leader. Mariko manages to keep her cover & slowly gains their confidence. Nothing is as it truly seems with the Black Clan Or the Goodreads blurb (in a good way lol). I’ve seen comparisons to Mulan & although I can see why, I myself did not take it as a re-telling. Set in a fantastical feudal Japan, Ahdieh infuses FITM with tons of culture & it is obvious she did her research. We not only get a gender bender story but we’re also given some politics via the Bushido code which are the laws followed by the Samurai’s of the land. This played an integral part in the story, specifically the Black Clan & I won’t go into too much detail for fear of spoilers. We also get the aspect of the Geiko’s (gave me Geisha feels) who are females living & providing entertainment in tea houses where men of important affluence frequent. Mariko’s encounter with both the Black Clan & the Geiko’s leave her questioning her reality & the morality/intentions of those closest to her. I enjoyed the discussion that took place regarding both Bushido law & the existence of Geiko’s as it only helped build a more well rounded world. The second half of this book had me feeling like I was watching an episode of Game of Thrones & that is a very good thing lol! So many players on the chess board now, all with their own motives & as I previously stated…NOTHING is as it seems 😉

When we first are introduced to Mariko, we learn that she is VERY intelligent, observant, and strategic. Often looking on her twin brother Kenshin’s privilege at having been born male with a bit of envy. Mariko loves Kenshin aka The Dragon of Kai but she also wishes she didn’t have to submit to the social norms of marriage & domesticity. At the same time, Mariko doesn’t wish to bring shame to her family and this is what keeps her on course to fulfill their wishes to marry in hopes of elevating their status. It was a ton of fun following Mariko’s progression via infiltration of the Black Clan. Extremely resourceful & loyal, Mariko has now joined my small hall of fave fictional characters. Now, we also meet Kenshin her twin brother who is hot on her trail trying to find her. Kenshin who is under the impression that Mariko has been abducted, will stop at nothing to find her. I found myself liking Kenshin’s bond to Mariko but more importantly his acceptance of her “non-ordinary” nature. He may have wished she would conform just a little to make things easier but he never forced her to change. He’s always been aware of her passion for more in life, something not typically voiced or seen in the women of this world. Once in the Black Clan, we are introduced to a few members but the two that are focused on are Ranmaru and Okami. These two have a ton of history binding them, not all of it is good but goes back to their fathers. They are more like brothers now who watch eachothers back with Ranmaru being the leader & Okami the shield. LOVED these two! there’s also more than meets the eye with these two haha! discovering what hides beneath these complex characters was one of the best parts of this book. The ending of FITM brings some background characters to the forefront & begins to lay the framework for the sequel. With tons more cut throat characters coming out of the woodwork, i’m highly anticipating the sequel.

I’m a HUGE fan of lush worlds both real & fantastical, with Flame In The Mist Ahdieh delivers a huge dose of culture set in a fantasy feudal Japan. I LOVE when an author’s research jumps off the page & feeds my imagination vividly. Starting off with the very first page that lists the Bushido Code, I knew I was in for some serious story telling & that is what I got! complete with a glossary in the back of the book, FITM is a feast for any lover of cultural anthropology & Fantasy. I LOVED the underlying message of female empowerment in this book, especially seeing as it was coming from some of the male characters. Its been a while since I’ve come across male characters I truly enjoyed, Okami & Ranmaru are hands down two of my faves. Well paced, FITM unravels bit by bit leaving you with some OH I DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING! moments haha! There is a romance & I appreciated that it was a slow burn (my favorite!) with all of the back & forth banter that made me smile & shake my head. The last half of this book took on a different tone once the plot thickened & motives were made known. You’ll see power play moves being made that may leave you feeling like you’re in a game of Chess. Add to the mix the fantastical aspect & I just couldn’t stop flipping the pages fast enough. Filled with culture, politics, intrigue, subterfuge, and double-crossings… Flame In The Mist is hands down one of my top Fantasy reads of 2017 😉

Have any of my bookish peeps read this one yet? or planning to pick it up next week? This is one series (I think it’s a series lol) i’ll be keeping a close eye on…