REVIEW: MIRAGE BY SOMAIYA DAUD

Title: MIRAGE

Author: Somaiya Daud

Pub. Date: August 28th. 2018

Genre: YA Sci-Fi

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Pages: 320

Format: Physical ARC provided by the Publisher

*Thank you Flatiron Books for the arc in exchange for an honest review

Content Warning: Physical abuse, Kidnapping, and  Cultural erasure

Buddy Read: Melanie from Meltotheany, Amy from A Court Of Crowns and Quills, Julie from Pages and Pens, Jules from JA Ironside, and Chelsea from Chelsea Palmer

GOODREADS | BARNES AND NOBLE | AMAZON | BOOK DEPOSITORY

    

Mirage is Somaiya Daud’s Moroccan inspired debut that will leave readers wanting more from this author once the very last page is read. I’m not sure how I’d missed the fact that this is a Sci-Fi book when I first came across it however, this only further served to enhance my curiosity. The fact that it also spoke of poetry in the blurb was a major draw & wow! I had no idea how much of a treat I’d signed myself up for with this one. Daud gives us beauty and pain all wrapped into one with Mirage & that it’s set on another planet/moon is just the backdrop to this story. At its core, Mirage is a story about cultural erasure and the brutality faced by an invaded peoples. We are introduced to an MC who has had everything she values most taken away from her but somehow manages to hold on just enough to never surrender her spirit. I admired our MC, her values, culture, tradition, and people defined her and emboldened her to fight back. Mirage doesn’t read like a debut at all but instead that of the works of a seasoned author. Daud is an author I will be keeping an eye out for and hoping to everything that we get more of her writing in the very near future 🤞🏼

For Amani, receiving the tattoos on her face known as Daan on her Majority Night was everything to look forward to. A representation of stepping into adulthood, a rites of passage. Nothing could’ve prepared her for the events that destroyed her ceremony & took her away from those she loved. Kidnapped by imperial droids, Amani is taken covertly to the royal palace. There, she meets royal heir Maram who she is the spitting image of. Maram has plans for Amari that would make her a human shield. For Maram, being part Andaalan from her Mother’s side has always generated her much hate from the Vathek on her father’s side. She knows her life faces constant threat and figured Amani would make the perfect body double. Stripping Amani of her Daan was just the beginning, she is also made to learn Vathek mannerisms, history, and etiquette against her will and through physical abuse. Maram isn’t the only heir with a claim to the throne, she has an older sister who poses a threat and proving her worth to her father and the Vathek is her top priority.

We see Amani get sent out as Maram’s doppelganger which allows her an inside look to the politics of the kingdom. She also spends plenty of time with Maram which inevitably leads to learning her vulnerabilities. Part of acting in as Maram means keeping up appearances with her courtship as she is promised to Prince Idris ibn Salih. Idris is from one of the oldest and largest Andaalan royal families who once resisted Vathek invasion. Their concession to Vathek rule resulted in the loss of many lives and Idris the last surviving heir was pledged to marry Maram. The true test would be seeing if Amani could pass for Maram while in his company. Both Idris and Amani carry the weight of their peoples loss and pain on their shoulders. They both have so much in common that a connection is almost impossible not to make once they start spending time together as a part of their courting. This romance is dangerous and had my full attention from the very start, every meet-up had me a bit nervous for these two. We see both Amani & Idris make decisions in hopes of one day freeing their people which means they will also face some serious obstacles & I’m just here hoping theirs is a good ending 🤞🏼

If you’re looking for A+ world building, political intrigue, strong characters, Moroccan inspired culture, and yes a bit of insta-love (but I promise it’s the one you’ll want to root for 😂) and a bit of Sci-Fi along the way… then MIRAGE is the book you’re going to want to read! so much lush culture & tradition within these pages that I am left anxiously & patiently waiting on the follow-up.


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Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Title: The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood #1)

Author: Melissa Albert

Pub. Date: January 30th, 2018

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Pages: 368

Format: Physical ARC & eGalley

*HUGE thanks to Fierce Reads, Netgalley, and Melissa Albert for the early review copy in exchange for my honest opinion

  

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

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I’d like to preface this review by stating that no one is more surprised & bummed out by my reading experience with The Hazel Wood. I stayed clear of other reviews while reading once I caught wind of the divide in readers. This book feels like it will be a either you LOVE it or REALLY WANTED TO BUT JUST DIDN’T type of read & I fall into the latter. This has all the ingredients I look for in my Fantasy books however, the promise of “pitch dark fairy tales” was the real hook line & sinker. This is a very slow paced read & I for one am Ok with that because some of my favorite books have been and as long as the pay off is worth it I roll with it. The problem became evident when at the 60% mark I started eyeing the remaining pages wondering if there were enough left to transport me to the Hinterland & when that exactly was going to happen. It was like waiting for Lucy to find the door in the wardrobe that would take her to Narnia only she doesn’t discover it til the very end & at that point there really isn’t much time for world building. Although The Hazel Wood is labeled Fantasy, a large chunk of it is set in modern day.

We follow Alice and her mother who are always on the move trying to stay ten steps ahead of their “bad luck” & so a lot of the story is set on the road. Alice knows only that her mom doesn’t have a good relationship with her grandmother and as such has told her to stay away from her & The Hazel Wood where she lives. This all changes when Alice’s mother is kidnapped & she’s left with a last ditch warning from her mom to again stay away from The Hazel Wood. Alice of course disregards & starts searching for clues that will lead her to her mom, eventually all roads lead to the Hinterland and the passageway is The Hazelwood. Alice has never read her Grandmothers most famed written work  Tales from the Hinterland but not for lack of trying. The hunt for this rare edition leads her to her classmate Ellery Finch who is OBSESSED with her grandmother & Tales from the Hinterland. Typically, Alice steers clear of all fans but she’s feeling really desperate & Ellery has read the book which gives them an advantage. Now, the way this relationship progresses was probably one of the main reasons I came to the conclusion that I really dislike Alice as a character. Yes, it’s clear that Ellery has a hidden agenda but we don’t know if he has ill intentions towards Alice or is just a super fan who will do anything to get into The Hazel Wood. The dialogue between these two is always abusive from Alice’s side. One specific instance is when they’re on the road & Finch makes up a game in order to break the ice & get to know each other better, maybe even help Alice remember important childhood memories that can help them. The game is called Memory Place and Ellery starts of with A is fo Amsterdam because that’s the place he lost his “V-card” & they continue through the alphabet only Alice gets exasperated & says she no longer wants to play…

“I don’t want to play your stupid game anymore”

“and who uses a car game as an excuse to brag about having sex with some bitch in a park”

“some bitch? she was my girlfriend for eight months. It’s so ugly when girls call each other that word”

“Oh, my God, Finch, go get a liberal arts degree”

Awkward…but this is very much who Alice is and although we get a better understanding for her character at the very end, it didn’t change the cringe worthy moments throughout the book where she was just downright unlike-able.

To be honest, I probably would’ve fared better in the tolerance department had the majority of this story been set in the Hinterland. I really did not enjoy Quentin Colwater’s character in The Magicians but once we were in Fillory, he got plenty of passes from me. Alice may not have been my favorite MC however, I’m a sucker for A+ world building & the glimpse that I got just wasn’t enough. There were two stories within The Hazel Wood that were from Tales from the Hinterland that were absolutely engrossing! Dark & twisted, I couldn’t get enough & found myself powering through the pages. However, these were short stories at the very end and I can’t judge my enjoyment of this book on just these two amazing short stories (I thought about it but I just can’t). The ending however, leaves much promise for the sequel and I found my interest piqued. I really enjoyed the story behind Alice once it was revealed at the very end, but don’t want to discuss for fear of spoilers. I will say that in the short amount of time I spent in the Hinterland, I found it to be filled with interesting characters & the land itself had a very dark & atmospheric vibe. The kind of place I would’ve loved getting lost in the pages with. I’d still encourage those who want to read this book to do so since I know blogger buddies who LOVED it to pieces. I myself wanted to LOVE it but ultimately it didn’t work out that way. Will I read the sequel or any of the authors future works? I’m going to say yes for now, it’s clear Melissa Albert knows how to write dark Fantasy. I’m very curious to see whether the sequel let’s us full out immerse ourselves into the treacherous world of the Hinterland and enjoy her story-telling in a fantastical setting…


Hello Bookworms! Happy FriYAY! hope you’re all having a wonderful day *smiles* If you’ve read The Hazel Wood, sound off in the comments below, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’re currently reading this book, how’s it faring with you? & for those who haven’t, did it make the cut on your TBR? ❤


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Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson: A Funny Book About Horrible Things (Review)

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Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Published by: Flatiron Books

Date of Publication: September 22nd 2015

Genres: Autobiography/Personal Memoirs

Pages: 329

Format: Audiobook (I own via Audible)

Trigger Warning: Self harm

Rating: ★★★★★

 

Goodreads Synopsis:

In LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, Jenny Lawson baffled readers with stories about growing up the daughter of a taxidermist. In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

According to Jenny: “Some people might think that being ‘furiously happy’ is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he’s never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos.”

“Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you’d never guess because we’ve learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, ‘We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.’ Except go back and cross out the word ‘hiding.'”

Jenny’s first book, LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, was ostensibly about family, but deep down it was about celebrating your own weirdness. FURIOUSLY HAPPY is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways-and who doesn’t need a bit more of that?

 

Disclaimer (LOL): I’d like to start off by saying that before listening to this audiobook I had no idea who Jenny Lawson was. Odd really because I love me some funny ladies; Mindy Khaling (My Goddess), Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Amy Schumer to name a few. I prefer & have, listened to some of these comedienne’s personal memoirs on Audible and found that I enjoy them more than if I was reading the book in physical format. This is most likely because these ladies have narrated their own books & done an amazing job at it.

 

Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy came at the right time honestly. I had walked past the crazy happy looking raccoon on the cover in Barnes & Noble one too many times. It wasn’t until I read two rave reviews from Amanda @ Cover2Covermom whose reviews are always on point & Donna @Chocolatenwaffles’Blog who i’ve recently started following & has an amazing blog, that I knew I had to give this one a go. After all, I had already used an Audible credit on it a few months back smh (zero self control lol) & I was a bit down and nervous about my 5 year old starting Kindergarten in a big school. In this book Jenny Lawson talks & often times hilariously rambles on about the every day things that run through her head while struggling with mental Illness. Jenny lists some of the mental disorders she has been diagnosed with such as Agoraphobia, depression, & anxiety to name a few. She also has a fascination, if not mild obsession (lol) with taxidermy and the raccoon on the cover was actually roadkill that she affectionately named Rory & took in her home. This book is a collection of sorts, stories, and thoughts that Lawson narrates all the while embracing her peculiarities, irrational behaviors, and her “crazy”. A label that she’s aware many view as incorrect & offensive but she feels comfortable with. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments as well as some dark moments. Lawson takes us into her mind & her most intimate thoughts she lays bare. As a person who struggles with social anxiety, mild OCD, and at times mild depression…I found comfort in those hours I spent listening to Jenny. I also found something I wasn’t expecting, understanding for the other person…the spouse. Jenny & her husband Victor argue a whole lot, but please show  me the marriage that doesn’t! I LOVED hearing Jenny re-enact argument’s between her & Victor because they aren’t your typical topics AT ALL! filled with humor I found myself shaking my head in amazement at how good a sport Victor can be when following any of Jenny’s wild ideas. I was also left with a new understanding for my own spouse who can be very supportive when i’m not at my very best.

 

“Last month, as Victor drove me home so I could rest, I told him that sometimes I felt like his life would be easier without me. He paused a moment in thought and then said, “It might be easier. But it wouldn’t be better.” 
― Jenny LawsonFuriously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

 

Oh Victor! I seriously enjoyed his parts & feel like I’ve known them all my life. Jenny doesn’t hold back, there’s plenty of profanity to go around which I didn’t mind at all. This book is about finding happiness in the mist of all the feelings you may or may not be able to control. There’s a certain liberating feeling that comes with acceptance & listening to Jenny you get the feeling that she is comfortable in her own skin & mind and that’s empowering. She still struggles on a daily basis but she has an amazing support system & an even more amazing sense of humor for all of the bad days. Like many others with similar mental disorders, Jenny sheds light on how these disorders often times hinder her from attending social events. How even when you feel like you have everything you could possibly want & should be happy…you can still experience anxiety and/or sadness.

 

“I wish someone had told me this simple but confusing truth: Even when everything’s going your way you can still be sad. Or anxious. Or uncomfortably numb. Because you can’t always control your brain or your emotions even when things are perfect.” 
― Jenny LawsonFuriously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

 

I am currently obsessed with all things Jenny Lawson & will be reading her other book Let’s pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir  as well as following her blog TheBloggess where I can get my dose of her dark humor & brutally unapologetic honesty while following her journey with mental illness…

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