ARC August Review: Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle

 Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Published by: Penguin Random House/Kathy Dawson Books

Date of Publication: August 8th 2017

Genres: YA Fantasy/Magical Realism

Pages: 368

Format: eGalley

   

If you’re not careful, you can spend your whole life looking for what you’ve lost.

One stormy summer in a small Irish town, things begin to disappear. It starts with trivial stuff—hair clips, house keys, socks—but soon it escalates to bigger things: a memory, a heart, a classmate.

Olive can tell that her best friend, Rose, is different all of a sudden. Rose isn’t talking, and Olive starts to worry she’s losing her. Then diary pages written by someone named Laurel begin to appear all over town. And Olive meets three mysterious strangers: Ivy, Hazel, and her twin brother, Rowan, secretly squatting in an abandoned housing development. The trio are wild and alluring, but they seem lost too—and like Rose, they’re holding tightly to painful secrets.

When a tattered handwritten spellbook falls into the lives of these six teenagers, it changes everything. The spellbook is full of charms to conjure back that which has been lost, and it lists a part for each of them to play in the calling. It might be their best chance to set everything back to rights, but only if they’re willing to pay the price.

Spellbook of the Lost and Found takes place in Ireland, much of the time is spent outside in the woods, a abandoned house, and a pub with a mysterious owner whose age remains unknown. The teens in this book are pretty much left to their own devices. It’s during a bonfire party that one of the characters by the name of Laurel, wakes up inebriated to find the spellbook that would inevitably bind all of their fates together. The spellbook contains the ingredients to cast the spell that would find what you’ve lost however…for every thing found…you must be willing to lose something & the choice is not always yours to make. These characters have all lost something valuable that they are willing to take the risk in order to get it back.

Spellbook of the Lost and Found was one of those books I spotted early on & just knew I wanted to read right away. I’m a lover of all things witches, spells, and mysterious atmospheres and this book delivered on all three. We follow multiple POV’s as there are three sets of friends:

Rose & Olive: Best friends and polar opposites

Rowan, Hazel, and Ivy: Rowan and Hazel: are fraternal twins squatting in a abandoned house after leaving a toxic home environment. Their childhood friend Ivy followed them & plays a protective role over them

Laurel, Ash, & Holly: with this set of friends we only get Laurel’s POV as she tells her group of friends story

Stories told in Multiple POV’s tend to be some of my most favorite because it’s a great way to have each character fleshed out, by getting in their heads. It did take me some time to get used to all of the players in this book because some shared striking character similarities with each other. I didn’t find any of these characters to have a real distinct voice but I enjoyed following the threads that connected them nonetheless. I did however, appreciate the diversity in this cast of characters with Rose being a bi-sexual POC, Olive being deaf & bi-sexual, and Hazel being gay. Friendship played a big theme in this book as well as sibling relationships. These characters for the most part are deeply flawed but what stood out most was the genuine concern for one another.

Spellbook of the Lost and Found is my first read by Moira Fowley-Doyle since I haven’t yet had the chance to pick up The Accident Season. Although there were moments of confusion, I was invested in this story and seeing it all the way through. Also, I wasn’t expecting the writing to be heavy with prose & so that took some getting used to but again it still maintained my interest. This is a slow paced read but the pay off makes it all worth your time. I found myself constantly trying to connect the dots & even went as far as making a little tree chart to see how each person knew the other haha! I can tell you this much…you won’t see the ending coming! & that alone was wonderful! seeing how well constructed & detailed this story really is was a real treat & speaks to the skill our author honed with her pen. I highly recommend Spellbook of the Lost and Found to those who enjoyed the movie The Craft & for anyone who enjoys piecing together a good mystery 😉

*HUGE Thanks Penguin Random House/Kathy Dawson Books & Moira Fowley-Doyle for the eGalley of Spellbook of the Lost and Found in exchange for an honest review

Hello Readers! Have any of you had the chance to read Spellbook of the Lost and Found? if you have, did you see that ending coming? btw, since this is a mystery & those are best to go into blind lol, I opted to go with this review format instead of my traditional categories…thoughts?


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Top Ten Tuesday 8/15/17

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Each week, a new topic is put into place and bloggers share their top ten accordingly. I LOVE lists, they keep me happy and I’m so glad to see this meme return this week after a mini hiatus. This week was a freebie of sorts where you are prompted to list 10 bookish recommendations. I’ve linked my reviews for each of these as well, please excuse the older reviews since I didn’t know what I was doing in terms of format, a year ago when I 1st started this blog lol. Here are my top 10 picks for this weeks topic (in no specific order):

August 15th 2016:Ten book recommendations for Bookworms looking for Diversity:

 

1. Saints & Misfits by S.K. Ali

*features a Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager, her friends, family, and community. Janna Yusuf is like many other teenagers trandealing with social pressures, first love, and friendships. We follow Janna’s story as she tries to reconcile her wants with her faith. (Trigger warning: attempted rape) check out my review here.



2. You’re Welcome Universe by Whitney Gardner

* features a Indian deaf girl with 2 deaf moms & a honest f/f friendship with it’s ups & downs. Our main protagonist is skilled in Grafitti art & has a wicked sense of humor 😉 Check out my review here.

 

 


3. When The Moon Was Ours by Anna Marie-McLemore

* features a transgender Pakistani boy & LATINX girl as main characters in this Magical Realism story guaranteed to stir emotion. The writing is lyrical & lush with vivid imagery. Check out my review here.

 

 


4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 

* A raw & moving read relevant to our current times. It’s hard to read THUG & not walk away feeling like you need to do your part in the Black Lives Matter movement. Check out my review here.

 

 


5. Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1) by Zoraida Córdova

* a LATINX Young Adult Fantasy with elements of Alice in Wonderland. This story centers around a young Bruja’s (witch) Death Day celebration which is a rites of passage. In the Authors Afterword, the ancestors who appear in this book are from Ecuador, Spain, Africa, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Check out my review here.

 


6. American Street by Ibi Zoboi

* features a Haitian main protagonist who leaves Haiti with her mother in search of a better life in Detroit Chicago. We get a different perspective on a religion we often see in mainstream media. The writing in American Street is a mix between Fabiola’s native culture and the raw grittiness of Detroits mean streets. Check out my review here.

 


7. The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee 

* features a Chinese American teenager slayyyyying demons! centered around the Chinese tale of The Monkey King, this book offers up a kick a** protagonist who doesn’t take ish from anyone & I loved her! Check out my review here.

 

 


8. History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

* features a gay couple with AMAZING parents who I wish we had more of both in real life & in our books. This book deals with grief & will leave you reaching for the nearest box of tissues. Check out my review here.

 

 


9. The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

* Lush with Persian influences & steeped in Indian folklore, this book will leave you questioning whether we are in control of our own fate. This book also features a positive f/f friendship & a beautiful father/daughter bond. Check out my review here.

 

 


10. Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

* features a Chinese-American teenager in a gender bending story. Jordan Sun is on a mission to join Acapella in order to stand out in her college applications. The only thing standing in her way is that Acapella is all male only. When Jordan decides to dress as a boy in order to try-out, she wasn’t expecting to find a diverse cast of characters she feels most at home with. Check out my review here.

 

Happy Tuesday Bookworms!!! have you read any of the books I’ve listed? are you as excited as I am to have TTT back?!?! I guess I’m more excited than some since just when I started doing this meme again, the hosts announced their hiatus leaving me with a ton of unused excitement haha! 


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ARC AUGUST Review: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

Published by: Amulet Books

Date of Publication: August 8th 2017

Genres: YA Fantasy/Mythology/Re-telling

Pages: 336

Format: eGalley

*HUGE Thanks to Amulet Books, Netgalley, and F.C. Yee for the eGalley of The Epic Crush of Genie Lo in exchange for an honest review

   

The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie Lo’s every waking thought. But when her sleepy Bay Area town comes under siege from hell-spawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are suddenly and forcefully rearranged.

Her only guide to the demonic chaos breaking out around her is Quentin Sun, a beguiling, maddening new transfer student from overseas. Quentin assures Genie she is strong enough to fight these monsters, for she unknowingly harbors an inner power that can level the very gates of Heaven.

Genie will have to dig deep within herself to summon the otherworldly strength that Quentin keeps talking about. But as she does, she finds the secret of her true nature is entwined with his, in a way she could never have imagined…

This has to be one of the most fun and adventurous plots I’ve read all year long & I was so thankful for so many reasons! many have compared this to Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series which I have much love for. I can say that there are some similar feels but that goes for much of mythology, we can always find similarities. For me, The Epic Crush of Genie Lo stands apart for the following reasons:

1. A relatable Chinese-American heroine who is first and foremost just a student in High School trying to get into an Ivy League College before she starts juggling school & slaying demons

2. The story originates from the Chinese tale Journey to the West telling the story of Sun Wukong aka The Monkey King…I love all re-tellings however, I have never come across Chinese Folklore in Young Adult so this was a MUST READ!

3. The inclusion of Chinese culture specifically as it pertains to education and expectations. The pressures at home to over achieve bore so many similarities to those in Latinx culture. The fact that Genie wasn’t a child prodigy, she simply didn’t have a skill to set her apart in college applications & that alone made her very relatable…

The opening has us meet Genie Lo as she is meeting Quentin aka The Monkey King for the very first time. She witnesses him getting beat up by a group of guys in an alley & intercedes. She doesn’t know what to think of him when he shows up as the new kid in her class who just won’t let up on following her around. He speaks oddly enough but more than that, it’s what he is saying…he speaks of a greater power lying within her. Genie is someone who believes in Science and the things he is saying & more so doing are supposed to be impossible. Quentin doesn’t give up until he has made her question all that is real. Encounters with demons that leave her fighting for her life make her realize he isn’t lying and that the world may very well be in danger. Embracing her new found powers, Genie sets about to restore normalcy in California one demon at a time…

Genie Lo stole my heart with her sass but it’s the temper when she thinks you’re trying to take a jab at her that really made me care for her. She’s very self aware and makes no apologies for what sets her apart. Described as being very tall with a body that isn’t considered very feminine, Genie plays to her strengths. She’s part of a volley ball team not because she’s very good at it but because it’s a sport where her body is an asset & it looks good on college applications. Her moments of honesty really resonated with me & my own memories of High School. In Genie I saw a lot of my own self & it was refreshing seeing her not trying to change who she is for anyone.

Quentin aka The Monkey King got a ton of laughter out of me! he dished out as much sarcasm as he got from Genie. I enjoyed the moments where he pointed out all the hoops students had to jump through just to get a higher education. He of course is a supernatural force & school is not really an obligation lol. Quentin teaches Genie to fight all the while knowing he hasn’t told her the full story of who she really is…

Yunie-Genie’s BFF has to be one of the best BFF’s I’ve come across in YA! she is HILARIOUS!!! & also has no hairs on her tongue. She had me from the moment she referenced her Ovaries upon seeing Quentin’s handsome self walk into their classroom smh HAHA!

Genie’s Mom is by no means what you’re probably used to seeing from parents in Young Adults. As a matter of fact, she reminded me of my own in many ways. Genie’s mom is a single working mother trying her best to keep her daughter goal driven. She also doesn’t have any chill when speaking her mind & seeing her conversations play out with Genie felt familiar. Her heart is in the right place, she just has high expectations for her daughter. There are some moments when she speaks about Genie’s appearance that may make some uncomfortable, for me this was very relatable coming from an old school home that encouraged education but also an ideal marriage. Genie fortunately has tough skin & knows that her mothers ideals aren’t her own & loves her nonetheless.

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is fun, adventurous, packs a punch, and will leave you rooting for this heroines victory! The time I spent in its pages sparked so much interest in the Chinese tale from which it was inspired that I found myself researching on the side for my own growth. This is when I know I’ve come across a good book, when it leaves me wanting to dig deeper. This book was highly enjoyable while still imparting the reader with an inside look to a small aspect of Chinese culture. I was also a big fan of the humor throughout, so many LOL moments that I truly lost count (like I said, a very fun book haha). I also enjoyed the progression or development of Genie & Quentins relationship all throughout. It felt more realistic to go from truly not trusting Quentin to friends to something more than just friends. I only docked it 1 star because the writing in the beginning felt like it was trying to find its footing. It started off with a very middle grade feel and towards the middle/end, it makes its mark as Young Adult. I’m very much looking forward to more from this author who lends an authentic diverse voice to this genre.

*Please check out these Own Voices reviews: Read Think Ponder & One Way or an Author

Hello Readers! yesterday was Genie’s Book Birthday, did any of you get to grab a copy? & if you’ve already read it please share some non-spoilery thoughts down below 😉


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Waiting On Wednesday

Children Of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Publisher: Henry Holt Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: March 6th 2018

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 448 pages

 

 Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at @Breaking The Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

This is the 1st Waiting On Wednesday I’ve been over the moon excited to share in a very long time! Although I have plenty of books on my radar, only 1 takes the title of most anticipated for 2018 in my planner & that is Children of Blood and Bone! I’ve been patiently waiting for a cover reveal & it was absolutely worth the wait *heart eyes emoji* the words beautiful & stunning come to mind but really don’t do it justice. Children of Blood and Bone is slated to be the biggest YA Fantasy of 2018, steeped in African Culture with its own Mythology, the world building alone calls my name. I am eager to meet these characters, learn their magic/world, and welcome them in my heart. As most of you know, I am passionate about Diversity & to see it make its way into YA feels like a victory!

Children of Blood and Bone is already being adapted for the big screen (see here) & the author, 23 year old Tomi Adeyemi is said to have scored one of the biggest YA book publishing deals of all time. The article I’ve linked above mentions talk of Children of Blood and Bone being called “Black Lives Matter-inspired fantasy”…If this hasn’t convinced you to add this book to your TBR’s maybe the authors profile bio will…

Tomi Adeyemi is a Nigerian-American writer and creative writing coach based in San Diego, California. Her debut novel, CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE, comes out March 6th, 2018 and the movie is currently in development at Fox with the producers of Twilight and The Maze Runner attached. After graduating Harvard University with an honors degree in English literature, she received a fellowship that allowed her to study West African mythology and culture in Salvador, Brazil. When she’s not working on her novels or watching Scandal, she can be found blogging and teaching creative writing to her 3,500 subscribers at tomiadeyemi.com. Her website has been named one of the 101 best websites for writers by Writer’s Digest.

I would love to know if any of my fellow bookworms are anticipating this title or any other diverse YA Fantasy books you are looking forward to reading. Drop those comments down below <3’s! 

Friday Reads

Happy Friday Readers!!! I haven’t done one of these in a while but I’m trying to get in the habit of scheduling posts for days or weeks that i’m not feeling my best. Also, I’d like to know what you’re currently reading and enjoying or maybe not enjoying. My weekends usually see me putting my books away to spend time with my 2 tiny humans but I’m also working on ME time when they’re napping. For those that have responsibilities (doesn’t necessarily have to be kids) which is probably most of us, then you know that time is always evading us. I think this week alone has taught me the importance of self-care & stepping away when necessary for mental health. Starting next wknd I’ll be carving out ME time since this weekend is my 1 year Wedding Anniversary & there’s no escaping that LMAO!

Kicking off my Friday with the highly anticipated season 5 return of Orange Is The New Black!!! I’ll admit, last season wasn’t their best but that ending has me clamoring back for more so without shame I will binge the hell out of OITNB tonight into the wee hours of the morning. Sure I’ll pay for it come Saturday morning when the insanely cruel tiny humans sound the alarms at 7am…then again they may just meet me channeling my fave character “Red” in the kitchen 😉

I’m actually back to reading 2 books at a time, I had taken a long break from that but the mood called to me & I answered. So I have 1 audiobook & 1 eGalley that I’m currently working my way through. I’m about 38% into Let’s pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson & once again Jenny has me making awkward gasping sounds in public while I try not to die of laughter. I loved Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things (review here) which came after this one but I am SERIOUSLY LOVING Let’s Pretend! but this time I’m savoring it & only listening to it when my anxiety is high or I’m feeling a bit down. It is legit the best medicine for any down day. I find myself enjoying this one more simply because she’s including stories about her dad and husband Victor pre-marriage that have me shaking my head in disbelief. The Taxidermy stories are still awkward but very funny & Jenny is unapologetically Jenny. Hearing how she thinks is kind of liberating, we all have a little quirk in us…she has a ton & I love her for it!

This morning I started Song of the Current (Song of the Current #1) by Sarah Tolcser a YA Fantasy with its own mythos centered around a River God. The main protagonist Caro is strong willed & waiting for the day that the River God calls her name as has been the case for generations in her family. I’m only a chapter in & already hooked wondering where this adventure will take me. After reading & loving Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller earlier in the year, I am looking forward to another waterways adventure &&& PIRATES! I can always go for Pirates 😉

What are you reading/watching this Friday? any plans for the weekend? 🙂

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: 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…

Review: Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer

Spindle Fire By Lexa Hillyer

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: April 11th, 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/Re-telling

Pages: 351 pages

Format: eGalley & physical ARC (giveaway win)

Rating: ★★★ (3 Stars)

HUGE thanks to HarperCollins, Edelweiss, and Lexa Hillyer for the ARC copy of Spindle Fire.

A kingdom burns. A princess sleeps. This is no fairy tale.

It all started with the burning of the spindles.

No.

It all started with a curse…

Half sisters Isabelle and Aurora are polar opposites: Isabelle is the king’s headstrong illegitimate daughter, whose sight was tithed by faeries; Aurora, beautiful and sheltered, was tithed her sense of touch and her voice on the same day. Despite their differences, the sisters have always been extremely close.

And then everything changes, with a single drop of Aurora’s blood—and a sleep so deep it cannot be broken.

As the faerie queen and her army of Vultures prepare to march, Isabelle must race to find a prince who can awaken her sister with the kiss of true love and seal their two kingdoms in an alliance against the queen.

Isabelle crosses land and sea; unearthly, thorny vines rise up the palace walls; and whispers of revolt travel in the ashes on the wind. The kingdom falls to ruin under layers of snow. Meanwhile, Aurora wakes up in a strange and enchanted world, where a mysterious hunter may be the secret to her escape…or the reason for her to stay.

A dark tale is spun in Spindle Fire…when baby Aurora is born, the last of the powerful faeries that used to rule the land pay the kingdom a visit. They bestow certain gifts of beauty & grace in exchange for tithing her voice and sense of touch. The King & Queen accept these tithes but it is when the Faerie Queen interrupts & asks for the child’s youth that they draw the line. The Queen then places the curse of death on Aurora by her 16th birthday. It is her half sister’s involuntary sacrifice that offers up some hope, Isabelle’s sight is tithed by another fairy who claimed she could reverse the curse & instead of dying…Aurora would one day be put into a deep sleep…

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As preparations are made for Aurora’s wedding, plans are also being made to send Isabelle away since she is viewed as troublesome. Isabelle who is very much a free spirit makes a run for it with her best friend & love interest Gil who worked in the castle. Aurora hears of Isabelle running away & decides to go and look for her. She stumbles upon a cottage with a Spindle & whelp we all know how the story goes lol. I appreciated the turn this story took in originality. After Aurora pricks her finger she finds herself in another world created by the Faerie Queen’s sister. So, it’s not like she’s just asleep the duration of the story, she’s busy in her sleep trying to get some answers. It is within Aurora’s dream world that we get to know the story of Malfleur (Faerie Queen) and her twin sister Belcoeur…

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Aurora & Isabelle are our MC’s, they are half sister’s with a language all of their own making. Isabelle is blind & Aurora is mute, they communicate via a series of taps on each other’s hands. They’ve had years to perfect their way of communication and can easily finish each others thoughts. Although they are half sister’s, Aurora is the daughter to the Queen and therefore is treated as a royal. Isabelle on the other hand receives less than royal treatment & is viewed by the court as trouble for her rebellious nature. Since this story is told in alternating first person POV chapters, we get to know these girls and their individual traits. Aurora loves romance novels that end with the prince swooping in & Isabelle can’t fathom the idea of being tied down by anyone. The sister’s are complete opposites, Aurora knows she was born to marry into royalty and is OK with that. Isabelle on the other hand would rather be chasing the next adventure far away from the castle. I was much more a fan of Isabelle, her chapters were def more exciting and even her approach to love seemed more realistic. We get introduced early on to Isabelle’s best friend Gil who is also her “love interest” and theirs is a complicated relationship. It seems like Isabelle has love for Gil more so than actually being in love with Gil. Later on in the story she meets the one that makes her question her actual feelings. I appreciated that her feelings were made known from the start of the story & it made for a more interesting progression. Now I can’t say the same about Aurora’s love interest which felt like a bad case of insta-love. I say this because typically insta-love doesn’t really bother me but I guess when contrasted against Isabelle’s, it stood out more in a bad way. I actually really enjoyed the Faeries that were introduced and their dark history. Perhaps more than Aurora & Isabelle’s story line, I looked forward to learning more of Malfleur & Belcouer. The faeries may have played the role of supporting characters yet it felt at times that they held the real meat of the story. I hope that the sequel sees more from these dark magical beings that once ruled the land.

 I’m a sucker for all things Sleeping Beauty, probably because she’s the princess who I feel got the bad end of the stick. She doesn’t have little birds cleaning & sewing her clothes while she sings. She doesn’t get talking tea cups & kettles to keep her company or a vast library to sulk in. No, she legit gets put to sleep & laid to rest in a glass case while the 7 dwarfs try to get her true loves kiss *major eye roll* LOL! so it’s safe to assume that Spindle Fire caught my immediate interest. I loved the darker tones in this re-telling & the fact that Hillyer changed something that I for one could’ve done without in the original lol. However, Spindle Fire was told from Aurora & Isabelle’s POV’s and if i’m being honest, I found myself enjoying Isaeblle’s chapters way more than Aurora’s. It wasn’t until the last chapters that Aurora won me over & by then I kind of felt short changed. This may just be my preference however, I will say that even with this holding me back, the pacing was on point with non-stop action. The world building was A+ particularly the faeries and their fall from positions of power as well as their need to tithe. This re-telling is unique, creative, and the story itself was enjoyable but it may be just be a case of writing style that made this a 3 star read for me. Spindle Fire is told in present tense/third person POV which makes for an awkward reading experience. I see tons of ways this story can go & have some wishes for it myself. I’d love to see more of Aurora reclaiming this re-telling & more of the faeries in this world in the sequel to come. The ending sets up the groundwork for book 2 nicely which means that yes, I will be reading the sequel 😉

Have any of my bookish peeps read Spindle Fire? if so, which sister’s POV did you enjoy more? 😉

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On a World of Words and to participate all you have to do is answer the three W’s listed below. Once you’ve posted your WWW, drop a link to your post in Sam’s comments <3’s!

The questions are:
1. What are you currently reading?
2. What did you recently finish reading?
3. What do you think you’ll read next?

*Covers = Links to Goodreads 

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I’m currently reading Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer which I’ve read so many negative reviews on *unfortunately* but I’m not hating so there’s that *glass half full* I wouldn’t say that this a 5 star read but at the 50% point I see some things that I do like. I’ve always been a sucker for a Sleeping Beauty re-telling & couldn’t resist this one but I am feeling a bit under-whelmed.

I recently finished Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis (review here) which I rated 3 stars. Although I didn’t LOVE it, I am in love with two of the characters in this book to actually want to pick up the conclusion to this duology. This is Mindy’s 1st dip into YA Fantasy pool & in the spirit of giving authors a 2nd chance, I’d say that yes I would give it another go. I admire authors who take risks and cross genre’s (thinks of Adam Silvera & smiles lol) when done right, it can be interesting to see a different style of story telling from your favorite author. Now, The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli I believe was aiming to shatter my cheeks with how much smiling I was doing haha! I have been seriously going through a YA Fantasy burn-out/slump due to ARCS I’m trying to do right by smh lol. I needed a contemporary & I’m so glad I picked up Upside!!! I have a review going live on Thursday & I can’t recommend this book enough. The positive body image representation for plus size was FLAWLESS! and yea I can say this since I am plus size 😉 

I’m not really sure in which order I’ll read these yet, it really all depends on my mood after I finish Spindle Fire. Although I am currently feeling slumpy with YA Fantasy…I’ll shamefully admit, I haven’t read anything by Renee Ahdieh *for shame* &&&& I’m curious about her writing now. I mean I own The Wrath & The Dawn but don’t honestly know why I haven’t read it yet…the woman obviously speaks to my cover lust/vanity side. Also, who doesn’t want to read a Mulan re-telling? I think ya’ll know which one I’m leaning towards LOL! it’s a close tie if i’m being honest only because I love Magical Realism & have heard lovely things about A Million Junes so far 😉

Comment down below whether you think I should read A Million Junes or A Flame in the Mist next? Also, did any of you participate in WWW Wednesday? if so, drop that link & i’ll swing by your blog for a peek. <3<3<3 XOXO!

Review: The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

30095464The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin Chupeco

Published by: Sourcebooks Fire

Publication Date: March 7th 2017

Genre: Young Adult Paranormal/Fantasy 

Pages: 400 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★

*HUGE thanks to Sourcebooks Fire, Netgalley, & Rin Chupeco for the eGalley of The Bone Witch

 

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The beast raged; it punctured the air with its spite. But the girl was fiercer.

Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.

Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.

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The Bone Witch is a beautifully dark woven tale filled with dark magic, runes, tradition, sisterhood, greed, loss, and betrayal. We meet our protagonist, young Tea who has just been discovered as a Necromancer. In the very first pages she raises a familiar back from the dead & is cast as a Bone Witch. Feared but very much needed by her kingdom to keep them safe & away from the Daeva (aka beasts), Bone Witches are still few and far between. Tea is mentored by one of the most powerful Bone Witches in the land far away from her family. We follow Tea as she studies to become an Asha by taking lessons in the arts, history, physical combat, meditation, etc. which gave me Geisha vibes all the way. Tea starts off as a novice in a Asha-Ka where she must earn for the house she lives in & climb her way up to being a well respected & highly sought out Asha. Her training is rigorous & through a network of sisters she is taught the art of entertaining very important nobles, politicians, and royals. Tea however, won’t be your average Asha since as a Bone Witch, her calling is the Dark. Bone Witches are the only asha that can kill Daeva whenever they resurrect & the time spans for resurrection are different for all Daeva. Tea sees the task that Bone Witches take on for what it truly is…a sacrifice. For every Daeva that is slaughtered, the Bone Witch is physically & mentally drained. Their lives are spent hunting & killing Daeva for a kingdom that sees them as lepers because they are able to raise the dead.

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Photo credit@MoonRaven NightShadow

characters-banner The main protagonist Tea is a Bone Witch who is discovering just how powerful she is among the few Bone Witches that are left. She is young and has to depend on her new found Sisters to show her the ropes & teach her how to control her power. I loved that Tea was hungry to learn everything she possibly could to further her ascension in the ranks. I’ve grown accustomed to meeting female protagonists in YA Fantasy that tend to only be about self or having these GY-NORMOUS (totally made this word up lol) egos…Tea is none of that. She is humble enough to remember the kitchen staff as she grows in rank, seeing her sneak them food because she remembered what it was like to go without, spoke to her character. I ABSOLUTELY love that Tea is a POC (person of color) because they are so rare in Fantasy (YA or Adult) & like many of my fellow blogger buddies have mentioned, if you can create a whole host of supernatural beings then it can’t be that far fetched to include POC’s in Fantasy. Tea is mentored by Lady Mykaela who is known as the best of the best & was the person to personally seek a young Tea out when she sensed her powers at work. Lady Mykaella’s story is also told in bits & pieces, we get a sense that she’s suffered heartbreak & carries a heavy burden. I enjoyed seeing this female bond play out positively on the pages. We also get introduced to some of the asha who play supporting characters & those who work within the village selling all of the things an asha needs from head to toe (clothing, hair, magical potions woven into clothing). Of these my faves were Polaire who also serves as a Sister to Tea & made me giggle with her brash no hair on the tounge comments, Rahim who custom designed all of the asha’s Hua’s always brought color to the page, Likh who worked in the special hair trinket store is a boy who wanted nothing more than to become an asha & dance all of the traditional dances. I loved that Likh felt comfortable enough in his own skin to go for what he wanted & stay true to himself. With an array of characters of all ranges, The Bone Witch gave me a new set of characters to love & worry about haha!

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Ok, so here’s where it gets a bit tricky! I am a lover of lush worlds and if done right, I don’t mind the slower pace or the attention to detail. That being said, I did feel that plot was sacrificed a bit in place of characters & world building. It isn’t until the very end that we come full circle with what led to Tea being in her current situation (no spoilers). I didn’t mind the slow pace at all because I truly can get lost in a world & lose track of time as a whole when the writing is as good as it is in The Bone Witch. I also feel that The Bone Witch makes for a great Adult Fantasy even if it is YA Fantasy. I say this because of the complex magic system, AMAZING world building, and fleshed out characters that suck you in. This isn’t a book you’ll read in one sitting, I actually gave it my Junior’s Strawberry Cheesecake treatment…that is I savored it for as long as possible. Each & every time I picked it up, I sunk into the nearest recliner and shut myself down to the real world. This is very descriptive writing & if you enjoyed Memoirs of a Geisha, then this is a must have! as a person who enjoys reading about other cultures, I enjoyed the Asian influences in this Fantasy setting. The story alternates between past & present. In between the chapters we are given brief accounts of Tea’s past in pages that are italicized, however they are being recounted in the present. Tea decided to call on an Asha whose specialty is that of a historian, to chronicle her side of the story. It is within the pages that are italicized, in between the chapters that we get Bard’s POV as he chronicles Tea’s stories. Being that this is book 1 in a series & since the author has hooked me in with her writing style, I know I will definitely  be picking up the next installment. I also feel that we will see the action we wanted to see in this 1st book, in the next one. Tea’s story is far from over, I am super curious as to what she has planned up her hua’s sleeves cuz THAT ending!!! smh I need more 🙂

My Bookish Peeps, those of you that have read The Bone Witch please drop your thoughts or links to your reviews down below. I’m curious to see how it fared with you all & do you plan on continuing with this series? If so….are you team Kance or Kalen? BAHA! I kid I kid! 😉