Book Blog Hop

Time to Hop!

One of the things I’ve been trying to do a lot of since starting this blog is check out other awesome book review blogs and get involved in some of the weekly challenges and prompts they use.

Today I’m going to be taking part in the Book Blogger Hop! This is currently active over at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer and bloggers all over the sphere get involved to answer the prompt, visit some of the other responses, and make new connections!

This week’s prompt comes from Elizabeth @ Silver’s Reviews (again!) and she asked: “Do you read books over 400+ pages?”

And my answer is: Absolutely. Especially because I love fantasy, there’s no way I could read all the books I want to read and still avoid the long ones. That just isn’t possible in that genre. Plus some of my favorite books are over 400 pages. I’d hate to miss out just because of a page count. I may strategically time them, depending on what other books I’m reviewing, but I definitely still read them.

What about you? Do you edit your lists depending on how long a book is?

Let me know in the comments!

Reviews

We Hunt the Flame

“We hunt the flame, the light in the darkness, the good this world deserves.”

Zafira, known as the Hunter to her people, has long been disguising herself as a man and venturing into the cursed forest of Arz to help feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death and has long been killing those foolish enough to betray his father, the king. They are legends in the world of Arawiya, despite their reluctance.

Arawiya is being further engulfed in shadow by the day: the Arz grows closer to the city and wars are simmering on every front. When a mysterious witch appears to Zafira with a way to possibly save her people from these dangers, she goes on an adventure to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her world. Meanwhile, Nasir is sent on the same mission, to bring this artifact to his king. When their paths intertwine, they must decide whether to fight each other or to fight the darkness swallowing their country.

This is the release I’ve been hearing about all season, so I was highly anticipating it. I was worried, after the reviews began to come out so mixed, that it might not live up to the hype or my expectations. Did it? Not completely. But I didn’t need to worry either. There were ups and downs for me, but ultimately I enjoyed this diamond in the rough.

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal wasn’t what I expected it to be, but that wasn’t a wholly bad thing. Specifically, the best part of this book is the incredibly rich and unique world that the characters tell their story in. Arawiya is equal parts lush and harsh, darkness creeping around every corner. Faizal has a gift for rendering settings around the reader as if they are tangible illusions the reader can hear, see, and touch. More of an accomplishment, We Hunt the Flame benefits from a huge and layered world without the weight of information being dumped on the reader at all times. It’s an impressive line to walk.

We Hunt the Flame does something different than a lot of fantasy books, which is to look at an Arabic-inspired world without demonizing or romanticizing the world itself. Making it a fantasy? Sure, but the heart and flavor of Arawiya feel authentic and vivid. It is home to romance and darkness, beauty and flaws, and some of the most hauntingly beautiful descriptions of a fantasy world I’ve read this year.

Zafira and Nasir, the main characters of this book, were interesting and compelling traveling companions. I liked that the author allowed her characters to go through major changes throughout the novel, developing along with their circumstances. Their enemies-to-lovers romance was a deliciously slow burn and throughout every obstacle placed in front of them I wanted them to succeed. I rooted for them to achieve the life they wanted, a better life full of peace, enough to eat, and magic.

The scaffold of the story is a familiar one to YA fantasy, which is probably my only…complaint isn’t the right word, but it’s the one thing I struggled with. The plot machinery itself is predictable, even while parts of it are still very enjoyable. I meandered through this book’s story like our characters meander through the forest, wondering when and where they might see light again. Some moments could’ve held more of a punch, had they not stayed to such traditional paths. I also think that this book could have been a little shorter and it might have benefited the pace.

What stood out most of all through this adventure though was the author’s passion, love, and intent for this story. This debut novel is eager and enthusiastic, dark and hypnotic, mesmerizing and romantic. I found more good things than bad in my journey through the dark and I look forward to seeing what else Faizal writes for us in the future.

“Together, we will raise the dunes from the earth, and rain death from the sky. Together, we are capable of anything.” 

ARC Reviews

Bodega

I very much enjoyed Bodega by Su Hwang. This delightful and vivid collection of poems was fun and interesting to read, while serving as an authentic perspective into the immigrant experience.

What Hwang excels at most, in my opinion, is the beautiful and descriptive voice she uses to immerse you into an environment. In poems like Corner Store Still Life, Projects NYC, 1989, and the titular poem Bodega, Hwang paints such a visceral and tangible picture that I felt as if I could close my eyes and hear the noises she described around me.

In poems like Hopscotch and Latchkeys, Hwang delivers another form of transportation in that I felt transported back in time to my own childhood. Running to look responsible when your parents come home, playing outside and dreaming of fairy dust and towers, I felt my youth in these poems, colorful, vibrant, and beautiful.

Occasionally some lines would feel wordy or I wouldn’t grasp the meaning of a few sentences, but overall Bodega was an excellent, creative debut. I would recommend Bodega to any of my friends who enjoy poetry.

Received this DRC in exchange for an honest review.

WWW

It’s “What are you reading?” Wednesday!

I’ve seen a lot of bookish memes and list ideas here on the book-blogging circuit, and I wish I could do all of them! One of my favorites has been a trend of bloggers posting their current reads on Wednesdays.

This week I’ll be taking inspiration from Taking On a World of Words, and trying out their “WWW Wednesday!”

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What I’m reading now:

I have started so many books this week, it’s crazy town here! Here are just a few!

I’m about halfway through Claire Legrand’s new release sequel to Furyborn, Kingsbane, and I am really enjoying it so far. The last book ended on such an interesting twist that I was dying to find out how it would impact the group and dynamic, and I have not been disappointed. Look for a review on my blog for this one soon!

I jumped on the Illuminae train late, but damn it is so good! I’m buddy reading Gemina with a couple of friends in my book club and it continues to consistently shock and surprise me. I have yet to be emotionally stable all the way through one of Kaufman and Kristoff’s space dramas, and yet that’s honestly half the fun. I look forward to finishing this series this month!

Baby Teeth, by Zoje Stage, is my book choice for the Mark-up Book Exchange I’m participating in this year! I’m a third of the way into this intense little gem of a novel, and can I just say, “wow?” I cannot believe some of the things I am reading. I find myself shaking my head at this story in disbelief over and over and over again. I can’t wait to finish it! My guess is that I’ll fly through this one, so look for a review sometime in the next week or two.

What I’ve recently finished:

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal was probably one of the most anticipated releases of the Spring, I felt like I was reading about it everywhere. I just finished it this morning and I have to say, It wasn’t what I expected but it wasn’t bad! This unique novel covers a lot of ground, both wildly unfamiliar and sometimes too familiar, but I enjoyed it all the same. Look forward to my full review this week.

Internment by Samira Ahmed has been out for a while but I had yet to read it until this week. Damn. What a wonderful, depressingly realistic, beautiful statement of a piece. This book follows a “what if?” scenario in 2018 America where Muslims are brought to Internment camps like we once did with the Japanese in WWII. The parallels to our current political system were loud, bold, and unapologetic, and I appreciate this book’s existence. Would recommend.

Bodega by Su Hwang is a charming little collection of poems that I was so graciously granted a pre-release of by Milkweed Editions in exchange for an honest review. Bodega is about one girl’s experience growing up in a Korean-American family and the bodega they own in New York City. I loved the description and tangibility of this book, and I can’t wait to share my review with you all this week!

What I plan to read next:

I’m so excited about both of these!

How to Build a Heart is another wonderful ARC I received from Algonquin Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. The synopsis, following a girl without roots trying to decide who she is, sounds heartfelt and compelling. I’ve heard good things about this author, so I’m excited to find out for myself!

With the Fire on High is the highly anticipated new release from Elizabeth Acevedo, author of The Poet X, which I also read this month. I loved The Poet X, Acevedo has such a vibrant and poignant voice. If the reviews are any indication, With the Fire on High is another hit, and I have been waiting eagerly to read it too.

Look for these reviews in the next few weeks.

What are you reading this week? What are you excited about? Tell me in the comments and have a great reading week!

Reviews

Truly Devious

“Schools may be famous for many things: academics, graduates, sports teams.
They are not supposed to be famous for murders.”

Truly Devious follows Stevie Bell on her way to her first year at the illustrious Ellingham Academy. Ellingham is somewhat famous for a bizarre murder where the killer left a riddle, that is still yet to be solved. And there’s another odd thing about Ellingham– they believe that learning is a game.

All of her classmates seem to be prodigies or special in some way and she comes to wonder if that doesn’t have something to do with the school’s odd philosophies. Stevie herself is somewhat of a prodigy, or she hopes to be, when it comes to solving crimes. Her plan? To solve the Truly Devious murder that happened right here at Ellingham all those years ago. Which only gets more complicated as another grisly murder envelops the school.

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson was a truly fun read.

It had some highs and lows for me personally, but I still can’t say that I didn’t enjoy this book all the way through. There’s something I can’t quite put my finger on.

Let’s start with the highs.

The main character, Stevie, was my favorite part of this book. Stevie is smart, witty, confident and has watched Law and Order: SVU almost as many times as I have. Her humor is quick and funny and I also thought that most of her choices aligned well with her skills and background, which I love to read in a book. I never felt like “why is a high school kid doing this right now?” which is so refreshing. Whether it was her fascination with crime, striving to be herself with conservative and concerned parents, or reacting to a friend’s death, I felt that Stevie was a pretty authentic teenager, and I enjoyed following her around. I could’ve done with a few less Sherlock Holmes references, just because I think the comparison between them isn’t serving to Stevie, but that’s something small I don’t consider a real issue.

Personally, I especially loved her battle with anxiety throughout the book. I struggle with an Anxiety Disorder myself and they are the worst, so to see it portrayed in such an accurate and relatable way was wonderful. From her struggle to remember if she has her medications with her when she needs them to a very authentic panic attack near the end of the book, I felt honesty and empathy in all of these scenes. I appreciated that Johnson added this layer so much.

Another aspect of this book that I liked was the fact that the main plot is written alongside a sub-plot that happens in parallel in 1963, when the first Truly Devious murder took place at Ellingham. Many times I found myself more invested in this story than the other and it was hard to go back and forth sometimes! These were probably my favorite chapters, and reading about the old murder and how it all fell out felt like an important piece of this story.

One thing Truly Devious has an abundance of is side characters. All of them were unique and interesting, but at some point I stopped being able to keep track of all of the people we’d met. Some of them we meet so briefly that I wasn’t sure why they were there in the first place, except that this is a series and they may come into play at a later date. I kept thinking about googling a character chart.

The only aspect that I truly struggled with was an odd one, and that’s the feeling that…nothing really happened throughout most of this book. Some big events cluster at the end, which had a more satisfying feel, but for a lot of the novel Stevie is settling in at school and the focus is on her and her friends’ lives. This may be a personal preference, but I wanted to get to the crime solving already! It’s a great premise for a novel but I felt that there were a lot of opportunities missed to focus on the most interesting parts of this book. Now, knowing that its a trilogy, I temper this complaint with the fact that this book may have been our introduction to the characters for this series. But I still wanted more. Even the end, while technically having two cliffhangers, felt something like a dream melting away when I set the book down. I can’t completely decide how I feel about the end.

Right now you may be saying “Wait, I thought you liked this book, but nothing happened?” Yeah! I did! I know, it’s weird. Aside from any complaints I have about the plot or the characters, Truly Devious was fun to read. I never found myself in a position where I wanted to stop reading or didn’t want to turn the page. It swept me up into a confusing momentum that I rode out until the end.

Overall, I think I would recommend Truly Devious. Especially those who like more contemporary or teen relationships than gritty murder or those who like a gentler kind of crime novel. It definitely achieves these and more. I really do look forward to reading the sequel, both to see how the series improves and because I want to know what happens.

Overall, good and bad, but Truly Devious was still a ride I would get on again. Look for the review to the sequel, The Vanishing Stair, in the coming weeks!

“There is nothing so serious as a game.”

ARC Reviews

Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come

Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come by Jessica Pan has been one of my favorite reads of this Spring. Part memoir, part self-help, this book was funny, forgiving, and wholehearted.

In this Book, Pan tells us stories about the year that she decided to start saying yes and pushing her boundaries more. She talks about being an introvert, being a depressed introvert, being a depressed introvert with anxiety, and also doing all of those things while sitting in a sauna fully clothed. (Don’t ask.)

Some of the stories she shared made me laugh, and some of them made me pause and look inward, but each of them was unique and fun and a special challenge to the reader to examine their own lives. At times, I too have felt that “my life was passing me by” and the struggle that Pan describes is authentic and validating.

I love this kind of book and it is right up my alley. Jessica Pan, like Jenny Lawson or Brene Brown, has an uncanny knack for making you laugh and insightful profundity at the same time. I felt empowered, amused, and satisfied by the end of this delightful book and I would highly recommend it to anyone.

Received this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Reviews

Storm Cursed

“This is our territory,” I said, giving him the words he needed. “We don’t allow black magic in our territory.” 

When Mercy Thompson declared the tri-cities protected territory of the Columbia Basin pack last year, she didn’t expect that duty to come calling so soon. Again. Only this time the threat might be closer to home.

Someone is working black magic in the tri-cities and they’re leaving quite a few bodies behind them while they do it. Mercy, Adam, and the rest of their family must find out who it is, and fast, before this violence breaks the fragile peace in their city, and the country too.

The eleventh addition to the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs dropped at the beginning of this month and it was a whirlwind. Literally.

Between the witches and goblins and miniature zombie goats, yes you read that correctly, there’s enough magic and chaos to go around in Storm Cursed.

I’ve been reading this series, and its companion series Alpha & Omega which shares a timeline, for years. Briggs has been amping up the stakes and the drama for many novels now and this one seemed to do the same. The big clash between the Fae and the United States has finally come to a lull and tense negotiations are about to begin when the trouble goes down for Mercy and friends. I would have loved for the book to have spent more time with that plot line, as I am still eager to know a lot more than we got to see this time, but the main plot is a terrifying group of witches trying to stop these talks. Overall, the story was pure and gripping fun to read.

One thing I’ve always loved about Briggs is the way she writes characters and that is where this book also shines. Her main characters are complex, tough, layered, and beyond relatable while also being a coyote shapeshifter and a werewolf. That’s a feat. I love spending time with Mercy and Adam and that they grow and change along with every story. Their relationship continues to be one of my favorite to follow throuought all of its various developments.

They’re joined by some of my favorite supporting characters and the books are well-known for the bedrock that they create in this world. I find it so fun and interesting that Briggs cycles carefully through her side characters when she assigns who will have a larger role in each book, because it creates something pretty wonderful. I never know who I’m going to get the privilege to hang out with in the next book until I get to read it and she always brings a new layer to a beloved character when they take the spotlight.

I loved seeing more of Stefan after the last few books and it was great to have Tad take a larger role in this one too. As always Zee was there to support his own, and Paul had a powerful moment as well that left me quite heartbroken. I can’t wait to find out more about Sherwood! Knowing Briggs, I’ll have to wait a few books to piece all of the connections of his fascinating backstory together, but that’s honestly half the fun.

I even loved spending time with the villains in this book. Specifically Wulfe, though he doesn’t play the central villain in this particular story. His unique brand of psychotic politeness and violence was a hilarious backdrop to some of the moments in this book. And yet again, Briggs has me wondering about all new questions to a character I thought that I’d known well for many books. I can’t wait to know more. The central villains themselves are the things of nightmares. Briggs has an unnatural ability to write visceral and disturbing moments that stay with you for a long time.

In addition, Storm Cursed is another great example of Briggs ability to tie in plot threads across her series. She’s a master at making the smallest connections between ideas that seem forgotten and then end up being important pieces of story.

My only complaint about Storm Cursed is that it was too short. In some ways, that’s just me complaining and I need to get over it. Patricia Briggs had a couple of very tough years personally and yet she still put out a great book and I loved it, I can’t say otherwise. At times though, I felt that the length also held moments back from what I thought they could have been at other times in her writing. It was as if the story rushed by me like a train, too fast to see all the wonderful, beautiful details that I know she spent time and effort crafting. If anything this complaint is a high compliment because this book could have been twice as long and still as good, but I would love to see her books grow a little longer as the series goes on.

Storm Cursed, despite my desire for more of it, was yet another solid addition to the Mercy Thompson series. I highly recommend it and will definitely be reading it again when I revisit this wonderful series.

“Coyote’s Daughter,” he said. “We shall sing them to the great death.”

Reviews

The Unhoneymooners

Luck, fate and determination – whatever it is, I’ll take it. I pull Ethan down to me, feeling the slippery slide of his tank top under my hands and my laugh echoing into our kiss.

When her sister’s wedding ends in widespread food poisoning, Olive gets sent off on the non-refundable honeymoon that her sister so meticulously planned. Only there’s a catch— her new brother-in-law has sent the Best Man, Ethan, in his place too. And Olive and Ethan do not get along.

What starts off as a test of endurance to enjoy her vacation without punching Ethan in the face, soon becomes something else. Forced to pretend they’re married in order to fool Olive’s boss, who they find at the same resort along with Ethan’s ex-girlfriend, both of them start to see a different side of the other. Soon they start to realize that maybe they aren’t pretending anymore, and that fate may have had more of a hand in their “honeymoon” than they thought.

It’s official! The Unhoneymooners by author duo Christina Lauren has ushered in the Summer of 2019.

This was the first time I’ve had the privilege of reading a Christina Lauren novel and I enjoyed every second of this delightful romantic comedy. It is warm, sexy, and written with a wicked sense of humor that had me smirking and cackling over and over again. And it’s now a NYTimes Bestseller!

The main characters in this book made it for me, they were each so funny and relatable, frustrating and flawed, and incredibly sweet together. At least when they weren’t tossing hilarious banter back and forth. The dialogue between them feels easy and real and I often found myself laughing or sighing contentedly at some special moment between them. Olive and Ethan may have started off hating each other but it was easy for me to fall in love with them.

Even the side characters were people I cared about and laughed with throughout the novel. Olive’s family is huge and loving and the way they take care of her was one of my favorite parts of the novel, as well as her relationship with her sister. 

I think what I loved most about this book was that, as sweet and romantic as it is, it still isn’t an easy, straight shot for Olive and Ethan from enemies to lovers. When their vacation ends, there’s a pretty big, emotional twist that immediately pops the happy love bubble they’ve built around them, for them and the reader. It was jarring, but I appreciated it. It felt real even though it was dramatized and, even though Ethan’s behavior at times had me grinding my teeth, I was ultimately glad that they learned they can survive a tough blow. Something about this addition to their love story was emotional and powerful, and added another layer of depth that I enjoyed. I felt so much for everyone in these scenes, and I still feel it hours after finishing.

Ultimately, this was the Summer read I was waiting for. I read this on a rainy day and I loved how it was written so that you could practically feel the warmth of the Hawaii sun on your skin. I felt like I was on the beach with them, warm and without a care in the world. The world that the authors create in the Unhoneymooners feels real and tangible, like a breath of fresh, ocean air.

I blew through this Summer read and wholeheartedly plan to read more Christina Lauren soon, they have joined the ranks of authors I adore. This is the perfect book to read near the beach, dreaming of your own Olive or Ethan. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.

“Ami watches her go. “She’s so brave.”

She doesn’t say it like its an epiphany; she just says it like its a face, something we’ve all always known about Olive, a core quality. And its true, of course, but these little truths, finally being spoken aloud, are tiny, perfect revelations, dropped like jewels in Olive’s palm.”

Book Blog Hop

Time to Hop!

One of the things I’ve been trying to do a lot of since starting this blog is check out other awesome book review blogs and get involved in some of the weekly challenges and prompts they use. There are so many options! What a fun community!

Today I’m going to be taking part in the Book Blogger Hop! This is currently active over at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer and bloggers all over the sphere get involved to answer the prompt, visit some of the other responses, and make new connections!

This week’s prompt was submitted by Elizabeth at Silver’s Review and she asked: “Do you continue with a book even if you aren’t liking it?”

And my answer is: Yeah, most of the time. It can be a bad habit and I’m trying to more comfortably DNF books that aren’t my cup of tea but it’s tough for me. I record and compete with myself over how many books I can read in a month or how many genres I can read in a month, etc. and not finishing a book can sometimes feel like wasting the hours I put into it. Then again, logically, you have to think that moving onto a new book that I would like would read faster and easier. Plus I’d just enjoy myself more. So this is definitely something I’m working on. Not finishing can be hard too! Haha

What about you?? Do you finish every book you read?

Friday Fun

Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday is a weekly tradition started over at Bookshelf Fantasies, focusing on showing some love for the older books in our lives and on our shelves. If you’d like to join in, just pick a book published at least five years ago, post your Flashback Friday pick on your blog, and let us all know about that special book from your reading past and why it matters to you. Don’t forget to link up!

What a fun idea! And I don’t know about you but I love to talk about my favorite books, no matter how old or new they are.

This week I’ll be featuring one of my favorite writers, Jim Butcher!

Storm Front is the first in Butcher’s Dresden Files series and I read it more than a decade ago, when I was in the 8th grade. Wow. Even typing that is crazy.

Storm Front, and The Dresden Files, follows Harry Dresden, Professional Wizard and PI, as he takes magical cases, finds lost objects, and fights the bad guys who would harm the people of Chicago. (He doesn’t do parties though, don’t ask.)

This gritty, urban fantasy was one of the first books I remember reading and loving that was written in a masterful first-person voice. Harry’s sarcastic wit, humor, and belief in his ideals color every line of dialogue and description and he is one of my favorite characters through which to look at the world. And he makes me laugh. In fact, I have laughed, cried, screamed, and thrown things in response to these books. We’ve been through a lot together.

The Dresden Files is 15 books long now, along with an additional novella and two collections of short stories, each one from a different characters POV. Butcher has grown so much since he wrote Storm Front, his debut novel, that his later books are impossible to put down. He is a master of suspense, twists, tricks, and pulling the wool over the readers’ eyes just enough so that they’re on the edge of their seat.

The most recent book in the series is called Skin Game and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a deep, complex urban fantasy series with characters you will never forget.

What old favorites have you been thinking about lately?

To join in the Flashback Friday fun:

  • Grab the Flashback Friday button
  • Post your own Flashback Friday entry on your blog (and mention Bookshelf Fantasies as the host of the meme, if you please!)
  • Leave your link in the comments below
  • Check out other FF posts… and discover some terrific hidden gems to add to your TBR piles!