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?
“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.”
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.
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.
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!
“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!
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.