Begone, Hype! // Mini Reviews: Caraval, The Star-Touched Queen, Flame in the Mist

Let’s start these mini reviews by a confession: I am approximately 15 reviews behind, and to catch up and get some of my sanity back, I need to divide my time and commitment unevenly, unfortunately. Over the course of the next few days, you can expect to see grouped mini reviews that follow some theme; in these reviews, I will review three books to the best of my ability. There are so many books that I’ve read that I feel need proper time and attention, so those are the ones that will get individual reviews (or groups of two, instead of three). Hopefully this way, I can catch up on my reviews while not completely ignoring them either.

Expectation is the root of all disappointment.

When you expect something from a book because a) you’ve heard people talking about it, b) the author has previously done really great work, and c) (because we’re all a little bit shallow), the cover is just really darn beautiful, so you automatically expect the content is too. And so, you get your hands on this book, and much to your dismay, it doesn’t live up to your expectations. That’s disappointing, and nothing bums me out quite as much as disliking a book that I thought I would like. In this post, I will get to three books that left me with low spirits and a heavy heart (because melodrama is my forté!)

🍓

caraval

Caraval by Stephanie Garber // also known as, “No, seriously, why are you so popular?”

Rating:  🌟

Synopsis: Caraval follows the story of Scarlett and her sister Tella, who’ve always dreamed of playing the legendary, magical game of Caraval. Ever since they were young girls, their grandmother has told them stories about the Caraval master, the whimsy of the game, how the experience is unparalleled. The problem is that the game is incredibly exclusive – you can’t go unless you receive an invite. When Scarlett receives an invite after years of writing to the master of Caraval, she and Tella escape the clutches of their abusive, terrifying father with a companion in tow and flee to make the game.

What worked?

🍓 The first couple of chapters immediately grabbed my attention.

What didn’t work?

🍓 Important, serious issues are used as plot devices – Scarlett and Tella’s abusive by their father is only used as a launching point for them to go to CaravalThe abuse is shoved aside except for when you’re being reminded that the two are at Caraval to escape it. Suicide is used as a plot device in the most bizarre, offensive manner. The severe psychological repercussions on characters are pushed aside and overlooked.

🍓 Scarlett was a terrible heroine. Absolutely horrendous. She’s incredibly passive – she does very little by her own volition, but instead lets everyone guide her movements. She’s easily manipulated, and has no backbone. The result is an unreliable protagonist (and not in a good way), because you constantly doubt what she’s hearing and seeing, simply because you never know when the next person will come along and change her mind.

🍓 The writing style was strange and inconsistent; at times, Garber used metaphors in consecutive rotation, and at other times, it seems like the editor either a) went overboard, or b) didn’t look at the script at all. The book goes from purple prose to absolutely juvenile prose without any feeling constantly. The result is rather jarring.

🍓 Garber would have you believe that the sisterhood aspect of the novel is prominent, yet… it’s really not. Tella isn’t present in the majority of the book, and when Scarlett is thinking about her, it’s usually in the context of, “Oh, how can I possibly choose between my sister’s life, this boy I met two days ago, and making my arranged wedding on time?” If that’s the type of sisterhood that’s considered “close,” you can keep it.

giphy

🍓 I don’t know whether Garber was trying to achieve a constant twist-and-turns type of plot, but she consistently decided to change the motives of the characters, and the way the game is supposed to be played as she saw fit. The result is incredibly jarring. I got whiplash from the constant back-and-forth. It was naaaht a fun reading experience.

TRIGGER WARNING

Suicide; physical, emotional abuse; some self-harm.

BUY IT

Goodreads // Amazon

🍓

star touched queen

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi // also known as, “Damn, you’re pretty but you’re such a mystery.”

Rating:  🌟🌟 1/2

SynopsisMaya has a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction; she’s known she’s cursed ever since she was a child, and so does everyone else in her life. When her father, the Raja, arranges for a political marriage to eradicate rebellions, Maya finds herself leaving home and the Queen of Akaran – a kingdom she’d never heard of before. Akaran is mysterious, but magical, with locked doors, empty halls, and impossible things. But her husband, Amar, is sweet, and kind, and she can almost find love in him, as long as he stops his constant secrets.

What worked?

🍓 The Indian lore incorporated into the narrative was done masterfully; from reincarnation to gods and goddesses, to cultural traditions and the pitfalls of the subcontinent’s history, to food and dress – the story is seeping with Indian culture. It’s delicious to read.

🍓 Roshani Chokshi is a skilled writer. I don’t particularly enjoy floral prose, but I can appreciate when it’s done well. She utilizes figurative language beautifully, and she structures her sentences so that they read more like a song than prose.

🍓 The world-building was vivid, albeit confusing, and that speaks more for Chokshi’s ability to write descriptively than it does anything else. From mysterious Night Bazaars to enchanted gardens and vulgar horses… there’s a lot in this book to devour.

What didn’t work?

🍓 First and foremost: the characters were an incredible let-down. There’s so much for us to absorb in the world-building that I felt Chokshi focused more on the characters’ surroundings than the characters themselves. The result was largely flat, one-dimensional people guiding the story. Maya was yet another passive character for the large part of the novel; she does very little of her own volition and allows herself to be manipulated. But I will say that this got better around the 50% mark.

🍓 The romance – there was little to no chemistry between Amar and Maya. It was hard for me to believe that despite Amar keeping so much from Maya, she still falls in love with him. I would have liked a slower burn build-up.

🍓 The world-building itself fell flat for me – it was descriptive, and I could picture most everything on the page, but the universe, its history and how the magic worked wasn’t given enough attention. Perhaps if the book was longer and more attention was given to the mechanics, I wouldn’t have been so confused.

🍓 I wanted to see more of Maya’s life before she is sent to Akaran.

BUY IT

Goodreads // Amazon

🍓

DSC_0587

Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh // also known as, “Why couldn’t you be more like your older sibling?”

Rating:  🌟 🌟 1/2

Synopsis: Flame in the Mist follows the story of Mariko, the only daughter of a prominent samurai in feudal Japan who is on her way to the imperial palace to be married off in a political move. On the way, her party is ambushed by the Black Clan, and everyone is slaughtered. Mariko is able to get away, but finds herself in a deadly forest. Determined to discover why the Black Clan ambushed her carriage in a way so unlike them, she disguises herself as a boy and sets off to infiltrate their camp.

Note: this book is often marketed as a Mulan retelling, which it is not. For one, it is set in Japan and not China. Secondly, there are no similarities past the cross-dressing component.

What worked?

🍓 Mariko. She’s a wonderfully developed character with a strong sense of herself, her values, and what needs to be done to achieve her goals. She’s determined, and utilizes sharpness and wit to maneuver tricky situations. She’s a woman in a patriarchal society, so she starts off with a ton of internalized misogyny, but develops wonderfully by the end of the story. She’s also super sex-positive!

🍓 Kenshin (Mariko’s twin brother) and the love interest, Okami, were both well-developed characters as well. There are some POV chapters from Okami, though most of the book is told from Mariko and Kenshin’s perspectives, but I enjoyed these perspective-shifts and the flavor they brought to the story. I would’ve liked to see more of Mariko and Kenshin’s dynamic though.

🍓 The romance was very swoon-worthy, as Ahdieh’s romances are. Shazi and Khalid in her previous series are one of my ultimate OTPs, and Mariko and Okami made their way into my list too. They both complement and challenge each other well – their dynamic is hot-and-cold, but incredibly entertaining to see unfold.

🍓 Ahdieh is a wonderful writer; she writes with fluid grace, utilizing descriptives, dialogue and emotion very well. You mostly feel what she wants you to feel, and that’s the hallmark of a good writer.

What didn’t work?

🍓 I cannot speak for the Japanese representation since I am a) not Japanese, and b) not very familiar with the culture in the first place. But after having read a few reviews by Japanese readers, I now know that the representation is very appropriative and inaccurate. Ahdieh utilizes entertainment tropes, stereotypes, and poorly researched elements into the narrative. Here is an #OwnVoices review, and here’s another one.

🍓 While utilizing the “I disguised myself as a boy” trope, and as Okami forms a strong bond with her while he believes she is a boy, the book is very cis-normative, and there is absolutely no discussion of bisexuality. The first review linked above discusses both these issues as well, since the reviewer is Japanese, non-binary and bisexual. Do check out that review, please.

🍓 I simpy do not believe that Mariko formed a stronger bond with the Black Clan than she has with her twin brother, because the relationships (beyond the romance) aren’t developed well. You don’t get to see much interaction between Mariko and the rest of the Black Clan that gives you the sense that yes, she feels like she belongs there. This makes the climax a little… cold.

🍓 The launching point of the novel is basically the same as The Wrath & the DawnA girl seeks out for vengeance, infiltrates her enemy’s household under disguise and falls in love. It’s literally the same thing. The similarities were a little difficult for me to overlook, which ultimately made the book seem uninspired.

TRIGGER WARNING

Attempted assault; violence; misogyny.

BUY IT

Goodreads // Amazon

Wallpapers: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

aetia wallpaper graphic

Hello, everyone. I haven’t made wallpaper graphics for a series in a while – in fact, the last ones I made were definitely the Six of Crows wallpapers I made back in October. So, I thought I’d make a couple for Sabaa Tahir’s wonderful An Ember in the Ashes series.

I did something different with them; I don’t think I’ve ever utilized a dark background in my wallpapers before, and I almost always use lighter watercolor texture for the background. But I’m happy with how these turned out. I went for a minimalist look, and I didn’t want to crowd the graphic up with everything in every corner, if you know what I mean? But I’m ultimately happy with how they turned out, and I really hope you like them to.

Feel free to download and use them on your phones. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Terms of Use

🔥 Do not redistribute these wallpapers. If you would like to share them, you can share the link to this post.

🔥 You may not use these graphics in your own graphic design pieces.

🔥 If you are going to share them on your social media, please provide proper credit to Sabaa Tahir and myself.

Note: the quotes are not mine, the series they are based on is not mine, and the vectors used belong to FreePik.com.


Dropbox link for Graphic 1

(x)

Dropbox link for Graphic 2

(x)


Other Wallpapers

🔥 The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

🔥 Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

🔥 A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

kofi

If you enjoyed this post, and/or are going to use these graphics, I would really appreciate it if you would consider sharing and/or buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi.com. 💛

 

Review: Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

DSC_0389

FTC DISCLOSURE

🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

“Where are you guys? Text me back.”

That was the last text Carver sent to one of his three best friends before they were all killed in an accident. Mars had been driving when he got the text, and while he was checking it, their car collided into a truck, killing Mars, Eli and Blake. In one moment, Carver’s life is upended. His conscience weighs down on him, proclaiming that of course it’s his fault his friends are dead. Mars’s father is a powerful judge who’s looking to press negligent murder charges against Carver. But in all this hubbub, Carver still manages to find other people to find support in and with – Eli’s girlfriend, Blake’s grandmother, and his new therapist. When Blake’s grandmother suggest a Goodbye Day, – a day where Carver and her can do the things Blake loved, and have a proper goodbye – the other families start asking for these days too. Will Carver finally find redemption, some sense of closure, or will this end with him being declared the criminal that he thinks he is?


What worked?

🌊 The in-depth portrayal of Carver’s PTSD and anxiety after the accident, as well as multiple therapy sessions that are executed rather well.

🌊 The concept of goodbye days.

🌊 An emphasis on familial relationships, friendships, and personal recovery.

🌊 The slow-burn nature of it inspired constant empathy, rather than one gratuitous pay-off that often reads like tragiporn.

🌊 Carver’s character development.

What didn’t work?

🌊 Some problematic content – suicide, and self-harm jokes go unchallenged, largely. (You can read more on this further into the review) and some homophobic jokes that – while challenged – aren’t done so in-depth.

🌊 The goodbye days past Blake’s aren’t given as much attention as I would have liked.


There is no word better than “intense” to describe Goodbye Days. From start to finish, it packs a punch- whether that’s in the sad reality of the death of three bright young people, or in the loss our main character is reeling from and dealing with, or in the guilt that’s crushing him, making him do things and think things that you don’t agree with, but can’t really refute either. It’s an emotional book with themes of family, friendship, guilt and grief layered one atop the other – masterfully, poignantly, and unflinchingly executed. It’s a Southern novel, and has the elements found in traditional Southern fiction; close-knit communities, a prominent presence of religious themes, discussions of justice, as well as some references to the realities of “Othering” in the South.

It’s not gratuitously tragic in the way that sad books more often than not are. It doesn’t follow the formula of everything building up until it finally implodes in one tragiporn climax… instead, Goodbye Days slowly burns away at your sense of empathy. There were several moments where I touched my face and realized a tear or two had spilled over at the random-est of moments. Sometimes, when you’ve lost someone or something, the smallest thing can set you off, and it’s so fascinating that this book felt a lot like that. I mourned for Eli, Blake and Mars. I mourned for them constantly, despite never having met them in the prose except through flashbacks. That’s an incredible feat.

Zentner does a fantastic job of pacing his story and balancing the sadder aspects of it with moments of hope; though the flashbacks of Carver’s life with his friends are tragic in and of themselves, they also provide insight into the meaning of friendship, into holding onto happy memories, even if they’re painful. His Goodbye Day with Blake’s grandmother was one of my favorite moments of the novel, because even though they’re mourning the wonderful person that was Blake, they’re still celebrating his life. In this way, it’s also a hopeful novel, while being a sad one, and this quality is what sets it apart from so many other novels characterized as “sad.”

goodbye days by jeff zentner

I mentioned before that Zentner discusses the “Othering” in the South, and I thought this was brilliantly executed as well. Eli’s girlfriend Jesmyn, now one of Carver’s closest friends and support systems, is Filipina – there are several moments where Carver makes a seemingly innocuous remark that Jesmyn calls out as ignorant. She challenges him on some of his racist and misogynistic remarks every step of the way, and you really start to see him develop. To the point where he challenges a sexist remark that his therapist makes, and a racist remark that Eli’s grandmother makes. Carver and his friends have a history of joking about serious issues. They make homophobic jokes (this is challenged in-text, though not in a way that I agree with) and suicide/self-harm jokes (this is left unchallenged, largely, which is something I had a problem with), and it begs the question: after Carver’s development and his growing awareness, would he still make these jokes? I would’ve liked to see more in-text, explicit acknowledgement of the problematic nature of these jokes, though I still appreciated the conscious effort in the existing acknowledgment and correction. It speaks a lot for the authenticity of the Southern nature of the novel that ignorance exists. But this ignorance is also challenged (90% of the time), going to show that you can be authentic in showing the problematic aspects of your culture and characters without excusing them.

Goodbye Days was a damn good book, though not a perfect one. For one, like I mentioned above, some of the problematic jokes went unchallenged. Secondly, I would’ve liked a bit more emphasis on Eli and Mars’s Goodbye Days as well, especially because both their families’ have a very different reaction to Carver’s involvement in the accident than Blake’s grandmother did. I would have liked for this to be expanded upon. But other than these issues, Goodbye Days was a wonderful read. Poignant, moving, and incredibly memorable, and I’ll definitely be keeping Jeff Zentner in mind for any of his other books and new releases.

TRIGGER WARNING

Suicide/self-harm jokes, homophobic jokes (challenged), homophobia, racist micro aggressions, grief, anxiety/PTSD.

BUY IT

Goodreads 🌊 Amazon

5 Tips to Help You Write Reviews For Your Book Blog

review books graphic

🌸

If this post was any help to you, please consider sharing and/or buying me a coffee at Kofi.com. 💖

As book bloggers, book reviews form the bulk of our content, but reviews can also be some of the hardest posts we have to write, and we’d like this hardwork to pay off! As most book bloggers now know, reviews have some of the least engagement. There are a number of reasons for this – and all these reasons are a topic for another day, but one of them is how you review books.

I am, by no means, an expert and I’m not claiming to be anything of the sort. I’ve been blogging for almost four years now, and only recently have I settled on a reviewing format that works for me. Ever since, I’ve been looking forward to writing my reviews, and I’ve also steadily been getting increased engagement and feedback on both my reviews, and my style of reviewing. Today, I thought I would share five tips with you that I adhere to while I’m reviewing books. These may work for you, they may not, but I thought it’d be a fun little post either way.

1. Make notes while you’re reading.

I use the term “notes” very broadly. Some people like to jot down their thoughts somewhere while they’re reading a book. This is incredibly helpful because you can keep track of your in-depth thoughts while you were reading the book, and it inhibits you from simply saying whether you liked the book or not, and rather allows you to inform your audience specifics about what you liked, and what you didn’t. This method works for some people, while for others, it takes away the fun of reading and disrupts their flow. I’m one of the latter – I’ve tried for years to write notes while I’m reading, but it never works for me. Which is why I’ve started following a tabbing and/or highlighting system.

If I’m reading a physical book, I keep four colors of page flags next to me, for which I’ve come up with a key. For example: pink flags mean I liked a scene or a quote, a purple flag means a scene stuck out to me and I would like to revisit it (good or bad), a red flag means I found something problematic, and a green flag means anything else that doesn’t fit these categories (more often than not, the first three categories cover it all, but I sometimes use this for trigger warnings and such). Similarly, I have a color-coded system for when I’m reading ebooks – but instead of tabs, I utilize highlights.

binderstumblr_inline_nmytkf8rof1qhhciy_500

This may sound like a lot of work at first, but once you get the hang of it, the colors come naturally to you. This way, you’re not taking away any time from reading or disrupting your flow significantly by writing something down on a piece of paper; when you finish the book, you can flip back at everything you took notice of, and come up with some solid and thorough material for your review.

I also utilize Twitter threads to increase engagement and keep it fun for myself. Goodreads is wonderful for keeping track of your books, but I often find that the engagement level on the site is impersonal. I’m an avid Twitter user, so I often start ‘threads’ for what I’m currently reading. Once I’ve finished a chapter, or am done with reading for that sitting, I scroll to my thread and add a tweet or two of what I thought, or something interesting I found. Sometimes, I refer back to these threads if I’m struggling to find material for my review – other times, it’s just fun to look back and see the real-time feedback of what I was thinking while I was reading something.

Note-taking, in whichever form you find best, is incredibly helpful. Reviews that are thorough and target specifics are reviews that I’m a big fan of; for books I haven’t read, I know what to look out for so I’m not totally caught off-guard, and for books that I have already read, reading the specifics of what someone liked and disliked, or a certain scene that stuck out allows me to engage more fully with the reviewer.

2. Finding yourself a format that works for you can make or break your reviews.

Do you ever read a review, and you’re totally astounded by how good it is, so you decide that you’re going to model your future reviews after that one? Experimenting is the blogger’s holy grail. What worked for you before may not work for you now, so trying new things, switching your content and formatting up will keep you and your audience interested. And looking around at other people’s content and taking inspiration is a great thing, but keep in mind that even though you like their content, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for you.

I love reviews embroidered with GIFs. They’re so fun to read, and if the blogger has a good sense of humor, chances are that they’ll influence my decision to read or not read a book. But I can never add more than a couple of GIFs to my reviews. I can’t do it, because that’s just not how I write (more on this later). Sometimes I want to rant more than I want to review, and that’s when the expletives and the GIFs and the rambles ensue, but those days are far and few in between.

Find a format that works for you, and that’s the most important thing while writing a review. It doesn’t matter what this format is – as long as you personally enjoy writing it, you’ll find an audience. Some examples of formatting:

🌸 Breaking reviews down by section: one for plot, one for characters, one for writing style, etcetera. This allows your reader to target the section they’re most interested in – I’m a character-driven reader. More often than not, I skip to the characters section and read that.

🌸 Breaking reviews down by spoiler-y and non-spoilery-y sections. This is a great reviewing method if you want people who have read the book to engage with you as well, but keep in mind that this takes a lot of time and commitment, and can often impact the quality of your non-spoilery section.

🌸 Aforementioned: GIFs, and lots of freaking out and humor embedded in your review.

🌸 Writing your reviews almost like you would write an essay, with cause-and-effect driving the flow of your review. This is what I use, because that’s just how I like to write.

🌸 Lists! People love lists (look at what I’m doing right now! Lists within lists!) You can make lists for what you loved, and what you didn’t love. Lists don’t always allow you to be as thorough as other review styles, but numerous studies have shown that people on the Internet have decreasing attention spans – so lists are quick to read, and might boost engagement.

There are so many other things to consider: do you want to include a synopsis? If so, are you copying-and-pasting the Goodreads synopsis, or are you writing your own? This might be news to some of you, but if a significant chunk of your review is copied from another website, chances are that the exact same words will appear on other reviewers’ blogs too. This harms your search-engine index. Google doesn’t like duplicates appearing on its index. Writing your own synopsis can be hard and time-consuming, but I’d rather write my own than save five minutes and damage my traffic.

Are you going to include any buy-links? Are you going to summarize your entire review at the end so that those people with shorter attention spans still get the broad message you’re trying to give off? There are a myriad of things you can consider while formatting – but the one thing you never want to lose sight of is picking what works for you, and not being afraid to experiment.

3. Decide on a rating system.

As a reviewer, your first duty is to yourself. You started blogging because you wanted to, but don’t lose sight of the fact that you have an audience as well. And if this audience is important to you, you should keep things a little bit consistent. I’m a harsh critic; I don’t often hand out five-stars unless I’m certain that it’s a book that will stay with me for years. Many of my blogger-friends know this, so they’re immediately more inclined to pick up a book that I gave five-stars to because they know how rare those are.

giphy

Decide on a rating system, and think hard about what each rating means to you. Do you want to include half-stars? What are your deal-breakers? The way I like to do it is looking at what a three-star rating means for me. Is three-stars below average for you, average, or above average? Three stars is the middle rating for me, and my rating system is modeled after this three-star rating. Three stars means it was an average book. Three and a half means that I liked more parts of the book than I didn’t. Two and a half means I disliked more than I liked. Do you see how it works for me? Here’s my rating scale if you’re interested.

Keep your rating scale somewhere clear on your blog. Sometimes when I don’t want to read a review but am trying to get a sense of how people feel about a certain book, I look at the ratings alone. But ratings mean different things to different people. For me, three-stars is a good enough rating. For others, three-stars is a negative rating. Do you see what I mean? Ratings aren’t universal, so looking at the rating alone (unless you’re familiar with the reviewer’s consistency) doesn’t mean much. So having a page for your rating scale (or having it in your sidebar, or linking it in your review) can be really helpful.

4. Being consistent in your writing style is incredibly important, so again, figure out what works for you.

I mentioned in Point 2 that I write my reviews like I would write an essay; I let cause-and-effect be the thing that drives the flow in my reviews. I pinpoint an idea in the book, something I liked or disliked, and move towards how I felt about this in the context of the book. I like applying the themes of a piece to the real-world, and I like to discuss characters more than I like to discuss plot. I don’t like to limit myself with what I have to discuss in each review; I mostly let my writing guide me.

I’ve tried so many approaches when it comes to writing style in reviews. Casual, conversational, academic – and I’ve come to settle on a mix between conversational and academic, because that’s how I write my essays in school. That might sound weird to you – Aimal, why do you want to write your blog how you would write a school essay, that’s so weird?! Well, yeah, I admit it’s weird, but I’ve been writing academically my entire life, and I enjoy it. I love formal writing, and it’s something I feel I’m good at. Because I take reviewing so seriously, because I’m often discussing important themes in the books I review, I automatically default to a more formal style of writing. I’ve settled on this because this is how I write, and trying to change how I write just because it’s a bit weird to write academically on my blog didn’t work for me. It’s not going to work for you either.

nope

So think about it – how do you write? What are you most comfortable with writing? Settle on that. It pays off, I promise you. I guarantee you; the Internet is vast and wide and full of people. There is an audience here for everything. If you’re worried that your writing style or your particular formatting is too weird, and you’re not going to get engagement, you’re wrong. You’ll find a niche for yourself, and this niche will drive your engagement. You don’t need to lure in everyone with your content. You just need to lure in the people who will like what you say, and how you say it. That’s when blogging becomes fun.

Here are a couple of my reviews that follow the guideline I’ve comfortably settled on now: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Want by Cindy Pon, Release by Patrick Ness, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid.

5. Make your reviews stand out.

The book community is full of reviewers – that’s what we do as book bloggers. Everything else is a bonus, but what 99% of us do is review and highlight the things we’ve been reading. Perhaps one of the reason that reviews get such little engagement is because there are so many of them everywhere. Which means that for your hard work to pay off, your reviews need to stand out. Add some flair to your reviews.

giphy

But that’s easier said than done. I’ve started adding aesthetics to my reviews. They take time to come up with – it’s hard to find the pictures that match the book you’re reviewing, then compiling them in a visually appealing Photoshop graphic is both time-consuming and difficult to do. But it’s worth it, because it’s something that not many people do. If someone wants a visually appealing impact of a certain book, they can click on my review, and find something that gives off a vibe. They can decide then if they’re interested enough to read my essay of a review. 😉

Aentee @ Read at Midnight does an incredible job of making her reviews stand out. She makes beautiful graphics to go along with her reviews, and even if I’m not personally interested in the book, I often just click on her reviews to see the pretty graphic, ha. Here’s a quick example of one of her reviews.

So find something that’s interesting and different, something that gives you an edge. Do you do handlettering? Insert pictures of quotes you’ve hand-lettered. How about photography? Bookish playlists? Book trailers? The possibilities are endless, so come up with something and give your reviews an extra edge that’ll make them stand out.

🌸

Again, by no means am I an expert at reviewing. There are so many people out there who get more engagement on their reviews than I do, but I decided to make this because after four years of blogging, I’m finally comfortable with where I am now with reviewing. So I thought I’d share the tips I’ve accumulated over the years for new bloggers, or anyone else who might be looking for some help with their reviews.

Again, if you enjoyed this post, and if you found it helpful, I’d love it if you considered buying me a coffee at KoFi.com. 💖

Question: In the comments, let me know what review-format you tend to follow, and how you decided upon it? Did it take you many trial runs to pick one and settle on it?

YOU Choose What I Read Next: Make Me Read It Readathon 2017

Last year, I took part in the Make Me Read It Read-a-thon, and had a blast reading some of what people chose. I’m so excited to do the same this year – especially because I have a ton of ARCs I need to get to in August, since September is a big release month. Before I get to the choices, here’s some information about the readathon.

🐝

What is Make Me Read It Read-a-thon, and who hosts it?

The Make Me Read It Read-a-thon is an annual readathon hosted by Ely @ Tea & Titles, and Val @ The Innocent Smiley. Here’s the official description and how you can participate.

Look at the books you own, either physical, e-book or ones you’ve borrowed from the library and pick out a few you really want to read, or feel like you should read. It’s up to you how many you pick, personally I’d pick a few more than you expect to be able to read in a week. Example: if you think you’ll only read two, pick out five books or if you think you can read seven, pick out ten.

Make a list of these books on your blog, or make a video, or a Goodreads shelf or post a picture on Instagram—whatever is easiest for you. Then get friends, other bloggers/booktubers/bookstagrammers etc. to vote on which books you HAVE to read.

When the readathon comes along, you read the books in the order of most votes. For example, if one book gets 10 votes—you read that first, then the one that got 7 and so on. If there’s a tie, then it’s your preference. The goal is to read as many as possible.

The read-a-thon runs from August 6th to August 13th, and you can start reading whenever you hit 12 AM in your time-zone.

🐝

Potential TBR

🐝

🐝

Are you participating in this readathon? If you are, leave me a link in the comment section and I’ll visit, and pick what you should read. Let me know what you chose for me, and as always, thanks for stopping by and happy reading!

Trilogy Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han Review

🌸

S E R I E S  R A T I N G //  🌸 🌸

Lara Jean’s having a bit of a tough time in high school; her sister just moved away to college, and the love letters that she wrote to all the boys she’s had a crush on before are mailed to each recipient. One by one, Lara Jean is forced to confront each of these boys much to her mortification – she’s ill-equipped to handle such sticky situations, and throw in fake-dating, a leaked scandalous video of her with the cheeky but charming Peter Kavinsky in the mix and it all becomes a little too much to handle. That’s how the series starts – with a bunch of letters being mailed out, a lovable protagonist and writing that makes you feel like you’re floating on a cloud of pink.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before started off with a bang. In fact, the first book may be one of my favorite contemporaries of all time. You’re immediately drawn in with the unconventionality of it all – Jenny Han strays far from tropes. There are things in this series that I’ve always wanted more from in YA books, and because of that alone, this series is worth picking up.

For one, there’s a wonderful family structure surrounding Lara Jean.

Her father is protective, supportive and immensely lovable, and his presence in her life isn’t reduced to just reality. He plays an important role in each of these three books, and how often do we get present parental figures who are genuinely good? Moreover, Lara Jean’s relationship with her sisters is given proper time to develop and evolve. Kitty, her younger sister, is feisty and sarcastic, and is a prominent secondary character in the series. Lara Jean’s older sister is also a strong presence, even though she’s away studying in Scotland. The tight-knit familial relationships are a wonderful aspect to this series.

Lara Jean is a lovable protagonist – her childlike innocence and ‘immaturity’ are another unconventional aspect to the series.

This is one thing that makes the series unlikable to some people – they think Lara Jean’s too juvenile, too immature and childlike, but that’s something I greatly appreciated about this series. It’s not that she’s immature at all; it’s just that she has an innocent personality. She enjoys baking and cute things. There is something incredibly endearing about a girl who enjoys fluffy clothes, and calls her father “daddy” even when she’s a teenager. I think sometimes readers are too unforgiving of different personalities and different experiences. I, a South Asian reader, related to Lara Jean a lot, not in her interests and hobbies, but rather because of her relationship with her family, and her resistance to things “rebel” teenagers do. I was never much of a rebel, honestly, and I don’t often relate to books where the teens have no regard for rules or authority. Lara Jean’s personality was a refreshing relief from protagonists that had started to blend together.

The series is so cute. It reads like you’re floating on a cloud, wrapped in fluffy blankets with hot cookies by your side.

to all the boys i've loved before

It’s just so cute – it’s written with warmth, the dialogue feels incredibly personable, and the romance between Lara Jean and Kavinsky, especially, is adorable. Their banter while they’re fake-dating in the first book, moving on to their respectful, but also topsy-turvey and flawed relationship dynamic, was wonderful to watch. I’m a massive fan of commitment in books, and that’s another thing you don’t often see. And Jenny Han does such a fantastic job of developing these characters that you can’t help but fall in love with them. All of them. In the end, no matter how you feel about the individual books, you can’t help but feel like you’re returning home to people that you love and know.

So why the 2-star rating? There’s so much here to love!

See, the thing is – if I were judging book one alone, I’d give a rating of four or four and a half stars. Because the series starter could’ve been a great stand-alone. The sequels? They felt so… unnecessary. After turning the last page of the second book, I asked myself, “What was the point?” And similarly after turning the page of the last book, I asked myself yet again, “No really. What is the point?” And when you consistently ask yourself why a series is a series? That’s not really a great series, then, is it?

Because while the first book was fun to read, the sequels dragged. If I were an editor…

I would replace the entire plot of the second book with something different, then condense the events of the third book in ten or so chapters, and add those ten chapters to the newly written second book. And even then, the first book didn’t need any more! The plot of P.S. I Still Love You was so unnecessary, and that’s all I can do to describe it. The ending totally destroyed any build-up to any of the tensions in the second book – Lara Jean finds herself in the same situation at the end of Book II as she does in the start of it. And that’s a problem I had with Always & Forever, Lara Jean too. The book builds up to a pivotal moment in Lara Jean’s life (there’s virtually no plot but there is one major tension) – she has to make a choice, and you’re reading to find out where it’s going. And then at the last second, Jenny Han twists it around with five pages to spare. The conclusions are incredibly rushed. The plot changes and the sheer unencessity of it gave me whiplash.

Of course, that’s almost entirely my personal preference. Some people enjoy slice-of-life books; in a way, this series reads a lot like TV shows. Different problems in different books, some repetitions, some back-and-forth. And if you love the characters enough, you won’t mind it. But from a critical standpoint, the series flickers and stumbles beyond the first book.

But despite my clear issues, I will still recommend the first book to everyone who enjoys light contemporaries.

Because the first book was just that great, to me. Like I said, there’s a lot going for this series, and it’s become one of those books that is my go-to recommendation for people looking for summer reads that are cute, light and fun. However, if you were to ask me, I wouldn’t recommend the sequels much. The first book is a great stand-alone, too.

BUY IT

Goodreads 🌸 Amazon

3 Reasons Why the Game of Thrones Books Are Better Than the Show

3 Reasons Why the Game of Thrones Books are Better than the Show

The best time of the year is approaching – what is Christmas? What is Halloween? The best time of the year is when people all over the world grab their popcorn, their beverages, turn out the lights and sit down in front of the television at 9 PM EST as the HBO screen flickers and the Game of Thrones title soundtrack rumbles from the speakers as a new season begins. Game of Thrones has become a global sensation – it repeatedly breaks its own viewership records in the United States, and it is the most pirated show globally as countries that have viewership restrictions scramble to third-party streaming sites and the dredges of the deep web to find pirating links for the show.

When-Waiter-Asks-You-Need-Moment-Look-Over-Menu-Youre-Just-Like

And to think it all started with one man. One good-natured, short man with the beard of Santa Claus sitting behind an outdated computer, typing away on an outdated program, creating from nothing but his infinite creativity and imagination what has now become legendary. Like everything good in the world, Game of Thrones started with a book. And yet, the books have taken a backseat to the infamous show. Why sit through five humongous tomes in a series that puts out a new book at an average speed of once every five years? Why spend two weeks reading one installment when you can binge-watch all the seasons in a couple of weeks? Come on, you say, the show is pretty darn great in and of itself, so why should I read the books? It’s not worth the time and commitment.

Oh, but it is! A Song of Ice & Fire is, as the name asserts, a song. The lyricism of George R. R. Martin’s words is unparalleled, and no TV show, even if it is as fantastic as Game of Thrones, can match the genius of Martin’s words – there’s more to consume, more time to sit and absorb it all, and more to the world-building that you had ever thought possible. Because I was one of those people who didn’t want to read the books because the TV show existed, I have first-hand experience with why the books are formidable to so many. And as someone who had seen two seasons of the show prior to starting the series, I’m here to tell you that the books are worth it, and having seen the show first takes away nothing from them.

So without further ado, here are three reasons why A Song of Ice & Fire is worth it.

🌻

1. The show leaves out pivotal plot points and world-building elements to make way for gratuitous content.

This is understandable for many reasons. The show is limited to 10 hours per season, give or take an hour, but there is a tremendous amount of story to be told in very little time. The first and second seasons do a brilliant job of respecting the source material; they’re basically identical to the books in terms of major character arcs. The third book, however, is jam-packed with excitement. So much happens in A Storm of Swords that the showrunners had to divide it into two separate seasons… and the fourth and fifth books were mushed into one season, which is why Season 5 was many people’s least favorite.

The world that George R. R. Martin constructed was always meant to be complex, and this complexity simply could not be achieved on-screen. Each chapter is bursting with fantastical history – from fables to songs to legends and myths. From unhinged rulers dethroned by rebels to a war that wiped out dragons. Religions, magic, customs, languages and cultures. Peoples with their distinctive dress and values, different governing and political systems within the world, food, weaponry… there is so much and the sky is the limit, and the show only portrays a tiny fraction of this content.

For one (and this is something I’m still bitter about), the books explore Dorne properly; the Sand Snakes in their infinite bad-assery are given full arcs. They serve purpose, while the show left their stories hanging. From complicated personalities with rich histories, their feminist existence in a patriarchal structure was reduced to three aggressive women who have cringe-worthy dialogue being bossed around, while none of their talent in the battlefield or their political strategizing is showcased. The Iron Islands were given proper exposure; you fully understand their system of governance and the way the Iron-born go about doing things. Again, these peoples were largely reduced to dull old men who do little past babbling about the sea.

sand-snakes-dorne

And, of course, the most unforgivable thing the show could have done was entirely eradicate Lady Stoneheart’s storyline. From here on until I say so, there will be spoilers, so be careful. Lady Stoneheart is the undead reincarnation of Catelyn Stark – zombified and terrifying with rotten skin and a scar marking where her throat was slit, Lady Stark is undead and has come back with a vengeance. She’s like the specter of death in the Riverlands, killing Freys left and right – killing anyone who has done her, or her family, wrong. Her plotline is so fascinating, and it opens up the magic system and the world to infinite potential, yet it was removed totally from the show. /end spoilers.

Now, I acknowledged that the show can’t possibly include all the complexities of the series, but do we really need hours of screen-time for gratuitous sex? The scene with Jaime Lannister and Cersei Lannister in the crypt (without giving anything away) was unnecessary. Putting Sansa through that one scene that caused outrage was unnecessary. Having multiple sex scenes in an episode is unnecessary, and though they couldn’t have included all these plotlines, they could have done the ones that they had included (and butchered) more justice, like Dorne, for example.

2. Martin doesn’t believe in dichotomies, and it’s much more difficult to root for any single character in the books, a case study in Tyrion Lannister.

George R. R. Martin once said that though he draws inspiration from J. R. R. Tolkien’s work, there is a flaw in the idea that good and evil are such definitive concepts. All the good-looking people are the good guys, while all the unattractive archetypes are the evil ones. The elves with smooth skin and pretty features are the ones you root for, while orcs with their bulbous, discolored skin, razor-sharp teeth and dirt-speckled faces are clearly the bad guys. While the show clearly honors this non-dichotomous concept, what it fails to do is present the moral complexities of these characters within themselves.

Perhaps the best example that comes to mind here is Tyrion Lannister, who might be one of my favorite characters of all-time, simply because he’s brilliantly constructed. For show-watchers exclusively, this makes sense – he’s my favorite from the show too, but Peter Dinklage’s acting chops have more to do with that than the character himself. Tyrion Lannister in the show is a saint – it’s clear that you’re meant to be rooting for him. He’s the underdog in a family full of rotten people. He’s the good person who is fair even to those who are meant to be his family’s enemies. He’s just, he’s smart, and he’s immediately likable.

anigif_enhanced-buzz-11354-1366306992-22

But, oh boy, the Tyrion Lannister in the books is… someone different. He’s intelligent, sharp-witted and hilarious, much like he is on the show. He’s a lot like show!Tyrion in the first two books, but somewhere along the way, something happens and he becomes shrewd and twisted. His inner turmoil begins to squash out his good side and manifests into something horrible, and villain-like. He thinks vile thoughts, and he is very far from the saint Tyrion- but in a good way. He’s still my favorite character – not because I like him as a person, but because he’s so complicated and nuanced. It’s tremendously difficult to root for someone like that- someone who’s an anti-villain at this point, not even an anti-hero, but for some reason, you still want him to redeem himself. Because he was an underdog, and we hate good underdogs losing their way… but at this point, we don’t know what’s going to happen. And the uncertainty of human nature, the uncertainty of Martin’s characters is what makes his impossible fantasy series more realistic than the show.

3. Speaking of characters: what the hell did the show do to Jaime Lannister’s story arc?!

Perhaps it’s because the show simply doesn’t give you the amount of introspection and character development that a book can, but Jaime Lannister as he exists in the books as of now, and as he exists on the show, are completely different people. This isn’t about moral complexities like in the case of Tyrion, and it’s definitely not about one-dimensional characters because Jaime (even in the show) is far from that. It’s about his actual storyline with regards to Cersei. In the books, Jaime becomes aware of his relationship with Cersei and how manipulative she is. He makes an effort to, and succeeds in distancing himself from her fully. He undergoes a tremendous amount of development in more ways than one after he loses his hand. Jaime Lannister, in the books, has the best redemption arc I have ever read. Ever. Period.

Game-of-Thrones-Season-5-game-of-thrones-38087363-500-250

If you asked me back while I was watching Season 1 whether I would ever root for, or even come to like, the arrogant piece of crap who pushed a kid out of a window, I would laugh. But here we are. From this despicable, obnoxious human being, Martin transforms Jaime into someone you see learn from his past as he struggles with his duties and oaths, someone who’s determined to do right and change his ways, someone who you can sympathize withThe juxtaposition of Tyrion turning near-evil, and Jaime turning good is something that’s almost unthinkable considering how polar-opposite they both were, but it’s done incredibly well in the books. You may be asking me: what are you talking about? I’m rooting for show!Jaime too! Well, sure, but why?

Spoilers for the show, be careful! Why are you rooting for a dude who rapes his sister while his son’s dead body lies behind them? /end spoiler. Why are you rooting for someone who’s existence doesn’t extend past the whims of his sister? Why are you rooting for someone who is given worthless arc after worthless arc? You’re rooting for him because in the snap of two fingers, the showrunners tried to do in a few episodes what George has done over the course of five books – the end result is jarring, confusing and has little to no substance. You don’t have a reason why you’re rooting for show!Jaime… you just are because you’re supposed to. That’s a major, major flaw.

Honorable mention

The show becomes prey to tired clichés – spoilers for season 4 ahead. The most readily available example that comes to mind here is Ygritte’s death. In the show, her death is sensationalized – Jon sees her die, she dies in his arms, it’s all very sad because our hero lost the love of his life and she passed away in front of him. In the books, the grit and horrors of war are placed at the forefront, past the couple. He finds her dead on the battlefield… she might have died at his command, she might not have. But that’s that. That’s what happens in wars. You don’t get clichés, and that’s the poetry of it. /end spoilers.

🌻

Let me clarify here that I am, in no way, ragging on the show. I love the show, which is why I call this time of the year the best time of the year. I love watching the actors perform with their stellar talent and hard-work. I love watching the costumes and the magic come to life on the screen. But if you were to ask me what I prefer? It would be the books. It would be the life work of an incredible mind whose work reflects human nature far better than the show ever will. The books are worth reading. They’re worth the commitment, and if you’re a big show fan and don’t want the show to end, maybe give the books a go when Season 8 ends. Because there’s a lot more to them that the show can’t, and will never, tell. Ultimately:

tenor

Trilogy Review: Penryn & the End of Days by Susan Ee

fullsizeoutput_f0


S E R I E S  R A T I N G :   🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Penryn & the End of Days is an apocalyptic horror trilogy following the story of Penryn Young, her sister and her mother as they struggle to survive the potential downfall of man. Angels have come to Earth and are wreaking havoc; they’re seemingly invincible, are ruthless warriors who care nothing about the lives of humans. The human race has scattered, gangs have emerged as everyone fights to the death for survival. When Penryn’s younger sister is kidnapped, she sets out to find her, forming an unlikely alliance with an angel named Raffe. But as they spend an increasing amount of time together, they realize that the alliance is turning into something akin to romance, and the fact that they’re two people from two species at war is not only complicated, it’s terrifying.

“He is the one pocket of warmth in a sea of ice. Being in his arms feels like the home I never had.”

Susan Ee has crafted a story that’s… delicious, and that truly is the best way to describe it. Angelfall was largely lackluster in my opinion, for several reasons that I’ll get into later into the post, but I was still willing to give the rest of the books a chance. I picked up the second book a year after I completed the first one, and flew through it. It was everything I adored about a sequel, and it forced me to pick up the third book immediately after I finished it. End of Days was also a book I adored – and I was left in awe at the amount of improvement the series, and the author, went through from start to finish.

BOOK I WAS A LACKLUSTER AND DECEPTIVE START TO A GREAT SERIES

Like I said, Angelfall was far from perfect – for the most part, the first book seriously lacked in action. Susan Ee is a slow writer, and that’s okay. Her strength lies in the balance of slow and fast but it seemed like that perfect balance had not yet been struck in the series starter. Angelfall was dull – the moments interspersed with romance fell flat because Raffe and Penryn’s relationship was, at first, unbelievable to me. What drew them together? Why do they like each other beyond the fact that they have some sort of chemistry? Their relationship, as fun as it was to observe the banter and teasing, didn’t feel like it was developed well, and considering that I had pacing problems before the 80% mark, the first book wasn’t all that I had heard it would be. In the end, I gave it three stars, mostly because the last 20% was phenomenal, and it made me want to read ahead. If you’re looking for more in-depth thoughts, here’s my review.

WORLD AFTER PUT PENRYN AT THE FOREFRONT – RISKY MOVE, BUT WORTH IT

World After, however, was where the fun truly started, which is ironic because it was significantly slower than the first book all-in-all. Ee took a chance by making the sequel exist as solely a Penryn book, where Raffe barely exists past a few scenes near the end and a couple of fleeting moments here and there. It’s a book focused on Penryn’s personal development, her relationship with her family, as she comes to terms more fully with the world she’s now living in, with who she’s become, and has to firmly pick a side in a war that seems to have no end other than the destruction of her species. Having a book centered on her allowed me to appreciate her strength, both as a character and a person – so often when a romance is introduced and a high-stakes surrounding is at work, we forget to be invested in the main character. And with this risky decision, Ee ensured that I was enamored by Paige and her story.

World After is a slow, churning book full of introspection, survival and thought-provoking moments. Getting to be fully emerged in Paige’s head and seeing her work through her thoughts about Raffe made their romance click into place for me; suddenly, they made sense and I was rooting for them like I haven’t rooted for another couple in a long time – a stark contrast considering I felt nothing for them in the first book. The moments where the action existed were exciting. The horror and gore were cranked up a notch, and so was the world-building. The second book in the trilogy was perhaps my favorite from the three; it sucked me in completely.

END OF DAYS WAS AN EXPLOSIVE, THOUGHT-PROVOKING FINALE 

The third and final installment titled End of Days was another incredible sequel to a series that truly proved me wrong. While it often seemed like Ee was throwing action-packed scene after action-packed scene my way, the action struck a brilliant balance between the slow-churn of the second book and the wild thrill of the third. Here is where I’ll suggest that you binge the second and third books; spreading out the reading experience may give you whiplash. Read them both consecutively and you’ll enjoy the sudden shift in pace, I promise you. While action is at the forefront of the finale, we see some thought-provoking discussions take place. What does it mean to be evil in a world where dichotomies don’t seemingly exist? How are you supposed to empathize with someone who, by all logical reasoning, should be your enemy? How far are you willing to go to get your way when your way could be good for so many, and bad for so many too? I thought Susan Ee answered these complicated questions nicely, and though the end wasn’t handed to you on a silver platter wrapped with a red bow on top, you still got enough closure. You still get a book that wraps it up without making this otherwise gritty, terrifying story neat.

BUT… THAT ONE GLARING FLAW I COULDN’T GET PAST…

So, I loved the series clearly. But there was one glaring flaw, past the technicalities in the first book, that stopped me from giving it a higher rating. There was one question that was never addressed properly (if at all): what about the rest of the world?! The three books take place in various parts of San Francisco, and seemingly, all the action is going on in California – considering it’s called World After, you’d think some of the action would take place outside of the West Coast – or at least some other countries would be acknowledged. Susan Ee makes it seem like the entire future of the human race rests on the shoulders of the people of California… but what about everyone else on the globe? You could argue that the angels only came to the United States – but, okay, then the human race isn’t really in trouble… Americans are, and that significantly lowers the stakes of the series. And if you argued that there were more angels elsewhere, and the book just focuses on the events of California – then the war isn’t really over, and there’s a considerable loose end. Either way, it makes no sense. I don’t see the logic behind not addressing what countries outside of the US are going through in this horrifying apocalyptic time, and ultimately, that’s such a lapse in world-building that it was the one major flaw I simply could not wrap my head around or get over.

But past this one flaw, Penryn & the End of Days was a thrilling read, and I dread to think that had I not given the series a second chance after being let-down by the first book, I would never have experienced the terrifying, delicious glory of it. If this isn’t a lesson to give things second chances, I don’t know what is!

angelfall moodboard

Monthly Recap // June ’17

Here we are – saying goodbye to the first half of the year, and marveling at the fact that half of 2017 is already gone. I’m not kidding or exaggerating when I say that I genuinely feel like it was yesterday that I was on Hermosa Beach in Los Angeles, watching pathetic fireworks go off in the sky after the New Year’s countdown. But that’s how it is; time’s been passing by in the snap of two fingers.


P E R S O N A L


I hope June was a great month for all of you – whether that’s personal, blogging or reading goals. I had a wonderful month with some hiccups here and there, as it goes, but this was the first proper month that I got to unwind after my junior year. Although it wasn’t terribly busy (I was mostly lazying around the house, reading books, watching YouTube videos and the like), my mood levels were elevated significantly; thus, I had a nice, relaxing month.

☽ Most of you know by now that I went to Book Expo this month. It was such a wonderful experience, and it gave me a lot to think about regarding my career choices and the like, but that’s a tale for another day – meanwhile, you can check out my haul.

☽ Most of you also might know that I’m slightly (very) obsessed with Zayn, who launched his fashion line with Versace this month. He was supposed to have a launch in New York City – he would attend, mingle with the fans and all. I was so, so excited that I managed to get a wristband to go to the event; unfortunately it was canceled. Either way, I got to hang out with a couple of people I’ve met on Twitter by being in the fandom – it was a good day despite the ultimate disappointment!

☽ I had fallen out of touch with my best friend the past few months – I hadn’t spoken to him in almost six months, which was a strange feeling. Almost like there was something constantly missing in my life. He’s been my best friend since the seventh grade; for almost ten years, we’ve trusted each other with most everything. I think a lot of it was our egos getting in the way after the little falling out we had… but I finally put some of that arrogance aside and reached out to him. Having him back in my life feels nice, even if it’s a little weird talking to him after almost half a year, ha.

☽ Cricket isn’t a big deal in the US, I’m aware, but an international championship was underway in June, and Pakistan was one of the eight teams competing. My parents and I are massive about cricket when it comes to big Pakistani matches, so we spent most of the month watching those – it ended up being worth it, though, because WE WON! My parents still tell me about a time when Pakistan’s cricket team was invincible; unfortunately, for many reasons, that era was lost… but it seems like better days might be coming, and that makes me incredibly excited.


R E A D I N G


June was probably the best reading month I’ve had in a very long time, both in quantity and quality. I enjoyed most everything I read with a few exceptions, and I didn’t dislike anything – which is new, considering how picky of a reader I am. I’m SO behind on reviews, but hopefully I’ll be able to catch up in July! But given the pace I’m reading at right now, I think I’ll fall even further behind. We’ll see!

M I S ( H ) A D R A  ( A R C )

B Y  I A S M I N  A T A  O M A R

Mis(h)adra is a graphic novel telling the story of an Arab-American college student’s experiences living with epilepsy. It’s #OwnVoices in the way that both the author and the main character are Arab and are epileptic; it’s an incredibly moving story about the importance of having support systems in the form of families and friends to trudge through difficult times. Epilepsy was, and remains, a misunderstood illness, and though it was difficult to read sometimes given some of the graphic imagery, it was still an incredibly profound reading experience. I do wish that it had been longer, and the art style of my ARC was black and white, and I don’t think the graphic novel is meant to be read in black and white, which worked against its favor. Ultimately, I gave the book a three out of five stars. 

Trigger warnings apply for self-harm and suicidal ideations.

Mis(h)adra releases on October 3rd, 2017.

L I G H T E R  T H A N  M Y  S H A D O W  ( A R C )

B Y  K A T I E  G R E E N

Lighter Than My Shadow is a graphic memoir about the author’s experiences with anorexia in her adolescence and young adulthood. It’s heart-wrenching in its unflinching portrayal of eating disorders, as well as how deeply abuse by a therapist can exacerbate someone vulnerable’s illness. The art style is simple and uncomplicated, which works in the book’s favor, taking absolutely nothing away from the hard-hitting subject matter. It’s captivating, it’s moving, and it’s important. I gave this book a three and a half out of five stars.

Trigger warnings apply for suicidal ideations and graphic depictions of eating disorders, as well as sexual and emotional abuse.

E N D  O F  D A Y S  ( A N G E L F A L L  I I I )

B Y  S U S A N  E E

Susan Ee’s Angelfall series ends with a bang in End of Days. I was sad to let go of these characters that crept into my heart without me even realizing it; the finale was action-packed throughout with Susan Ee stretching her imagination to the utmost capacity. This series was one that I was unsure of at first, yet I loved both the second and third books, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys dark, delicious reads full of horror and the paranormal. Look out for my trilogy review, which should be up very soon!

Trigger warnings apply for graphic violence.

DSC_0578

W A N T

B Y  C I N D Y  P O N

Thought-provoking books are some of my favorites, and what’s more thought-provoking than a futuristic novel that shows you how hellish the world will be if we keep going the way we are right now. Want is set in a near-future, over-polluted Taipei where society is fragmented to the point where the elite and the poorer classes have drastically different mortality rates. I adored this book – from the setting to the characters to the messages it seemed to be imparting. If you’re interested in my full thoughts, I posted a full review. I gave this book a four out of five stars.

release

R E L E A S E  ( A R C )

B Y  P A T R I C K  N E S S

Release was perhaps my favorite book of the month, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering how deeply in love I am with Patrick Ness’s stories. It was a beautiful story blending the ordinary and the extraordinary, telling the tale of a young gay teenage boy and his experiences with romance, family, friends, religion and himself. It places so much emphasis on vulnerability and the teenage experience, and how everything we feel isn’t invalid like we’re so often told it is, just because we’re young. I’ll be recommending this book for the rest of the year (if not longer) so prepare yourselves. For my full thoughts, read my review, and I gave this book four and a half out of five stars.

Trigger warnings apply for murder, drug abuse, and homophobia.

Release releases (lol) on September 19th, 2017, while it’s already out in the UK.

DSC_0595

A L W A Y S  &  F O R E V E R ,  L A R A  J E A N

B Y  J E N N Y  H A N

Man, this series turned out to be such a disappointment, and I truly hate saying that because I adore the first book. But I constantly found myself asking, “What is the point?” while reading the third and final installment. I had thought that it would be a step-up from the second book (which I really disliked), but… nothing happens. There is virtually no plot, and it could have been condensed to a few chapters and tacked onto the end of book two. I hate saying that, but it is how it is. Watch out for a full trilogy review in the near future. I gave this book two out of five stars.

mask of shadows shelf

M A S K  O F  S H A D O W S  ( A R C )

B Y  L I N S E Y  M I L L E R

This was another wonderful, wonderful read for the month. I was highly anticipating this book, and I’m so grateful to Sourcebooks for sending a copy my way, and I’ll definitely be reviewing it closer to the release date; I loved the diversity of this story. We follow a genderfluid main character, Sal, who enters an assassin tournament to become part of the queen’s Left Hand, so Sal can take revenge from the nobles that razed their homeland when they were a child. It’s exciting in the way that most assassin and tournament stories are, but fresh because of the multifaceted and unique main character, the care and detail going into the tournament itself, as well as the skilled writing. I gave this book a four out of five stars.

Trigger warnings apply for purposeful misgendering from antagonists, and brief depictions of self-harm.

Mask of Shadows releases on August 29th, 2017.

and i darken

A N D  I  D A R K E N

B Y  K I E R S T E N  W H I T E

I had put off reading And I Darken for a long while now, but I have no clue why because I adored this book! It’s the perfect book for us Slytherins full of betrayal, deceit, cunning and ambitious characters. Lada was such a delight to read about in all her twisted, sharp glory, and I appreciated the research White put into constructing a historical version of the Ottoman Empire, as well as the care and respect she injected into the several discussions about Islam in the book. It was well-written, well-researched and well-executed, and I cannot wait to read the next book. I gave this book a four out of five stars.

Trigger warnings apply for some graphic violence.

T H E  S T A R – T O U C H E D  Q U E E N

B Y  R O S H A N I  C H O K S H I

The Star-Touched Queen was a book I had high hopes for, considering it’s a historical fantasy set in the Indian subcontinent, and really, how many of those do we have? There was a lot going for this book: beautiful writing, vivid, whimsical (albeit confusing) world-building, and culture infused into every single page. However, the characters and romance largely fell flat for me – I couldn’t take our main character, Maya, seriously at all, and I was too “wait what?” to fully appreciate the world-building as it existed. I do still plan on reading the sequel, so watch out for a duology review once I get around to that. I gave this book two out of five stars.

F L A M E  I N  T H E  M I S T

B Y  R E N E E  A H D I E H

Renée Ahdieh became one of my auto-buy authors after the success of her debut duology, and it’s safe to say that I went into Flame in the Mist with many expectations. However, I felt let down by the lack of chemistry in basically all the relationships. I liked the characters well enough, and the writing was as beautiful as ever, but there was no spark in any of the relationships except the main romance. Moreover, I’ve heard from Japanese reviewers that the representation of Japanese culture isn’t accurate and rather appropriative, so I knocked off points for that too. I might be writing a quick review soon, but I’m not yet sure. I gave this book a three out of five stars.


T V  A N D  M U S I C


I spent the last few days of June binge-watching The Keepers on Netflix. It’s a documentary compiled by two elderly women who take it upon themselves to ‘solve’ the murder of a nun that occurred in 1969. What they find is shocking in its disturbing darkness. It serves as a mystery, as well as an exposé of sorts – how the Catholic church, the police and the school districts in Baltimore covered up a priest’s horrendous crimes, leaving his young victims traumatized and afraid, and – it seems like – a young woman who found out killed. It’s addictive, but horrifying for obvious reasons. Trigger warnings apply for graphic detailing of rape, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and murder.

The music I’ve been listening to is varied, from pop to moody alt pop-rock, as well as whatever it is that Imagine Dragons make. Check out some of my favorite tracks from the month:


So that’s it for my rather long June wrap-up. I hope you enjoyed the post, and had as great a month as I did. Let me know in the comments what your favorite book of the month is, as well as one song that you’ve had on repeat for a long time.

The Ultimate Guide to Diverse YA Books Releasing in 2017: July – December

ultimate guide diverse books

Hello, everyone! As we approach the end of June, I realized it’s about time I post the second part to my Ultimate Guide to Diverse YA Books. I posted a list of books releasing from January – June early this year on the blog, which you can check out here, but the list of diverse books releasing in the second half of the year is much longer, and took much more effort to compile, so if you could help me out here by telling me of any books I missed, or any books that you know are problematic that I may have included, and I will edit the list as soon as possible.

Just a note: I made this guide because I am passionate about diversity in literature, to the point where I did my final research paper this year on diversifying literature, and how it could have a positive impact on minority children. It’s not a job, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s very, very time-consuming, and I need to scour all over the Internet, read hundreds of synopses and other lists and news articles and announcements to make these lists. If you enjoyed this and if this has helped you at all, I humbly request you to please consider donating to my Ko-Fi (or sharing the link). It would truly mean the world! But again, there is obviously no obligation – I do this because I’m passionate about it, not because I expect a cookie in return.

Hover over the image of the cover to see the release date, the elements of diversity, and click on the cover to go to its Goodreads page.

☽ ☾ ● ◯

J U L Y

☽ ☾ ● ◯

 

☽ ☾ ● ◯

A U G U S T

☽ ☾ ● ◯

 

☽ ☾ ● ◯

S E P T E M B E R

☽ ☾ ● ◯

 

☽ ☾ ● ◯

O C T O B E R

☽ ☾ ● ◯

 

☽ ☾ ● ◯

N O V E M B E R

☽ ☾ ● ◯

 

☽ ☾ ● ◯

D E C E M B E R

☽ ☾ ● ◯


If you have any books in mind that I may have missed, or you find something problematic about one of these books and you think it should not be included in the list (but only if they are NON-#OWNVOICES STORIES), let me know, and I will edit the list accordingly.

Until then, I sincerely hope these books caught your eye – I hope this list proves useful to anyone who’s looking for diverse books for the year. Please, please share this – the importance of representation in literature cannot be stressed enough, so please spread this far and wide so someone who might want some representation will be able to find it. Thank you.

Latest from Instagram

Copyright © 2017 · Theme by 17th Avenue