Recommending Books Based On Disney Movies Part 2 // here we go again

By this time, it is a fact well known that Rachel lives and breathes two things – books and disney movies. Given this, it is quite convenient to write a post that mixes both of these obsessions, with a dash of movie dialogues and a hint of book quotes. And wait, does that smell like a sprinkle of craziness and irrationality? All in all, the perfect recipe. (in case you were wondering, no i totally did not just watch Ratatouille)

I should have probably said this earlier but retrospection never got anyone anywhere so let me say it now – welcome to the second part of my Disney Movies As Books post! Like in the first part, we are going to be pairing some books and movies together and it’s going to be so exciting, not least because i get yet another excuse to rave about my favourites in both these categories. Oops. Wasn’t supposed to reveal that. Oh well. Let’s start before something else about my ulterior motives slips out.

Soul – House In The Cerulean Sea

SOUL All Movie Clips (2020) - YouTube

I’m just afraid that if I died today my life would have amounted to nothing.

Joe, Soul

Soul centers on a music teacher Joe Gardner seeking to reunite his soul and his body after they are accidentally separated, just before his big break as a jazz musician. In the Great Before, where souls are given personalities and sparks before they are sent to earth, Joe meets 22, a soul who has still not found her spark.

Sometimes, he thought to himself in a house in a cerulean sea, you were able to choose the life you wanted. And if you were of the lucky sort, sometimes that life chose you back.

Linus, The House In The Cerulean Sea
The House in the Cerulean Sea

The House In The Cerulean Sea focuses on Linus Baker, who lives an ordinary quiet life, until he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside. Whatever happens, one thing which is clear is that Linus’ will never be able to go back to living in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records.

_____________

Soul holds somewhat a special place in my heart because I watched it on my birthday the year it released. I re-watched it recently and I can’t believe I didn’t notice before how similar vibes it has with The House In The Cerulean Sea, one of my all time favourites. The main character in both was a middle aged working man, living an ordinary and monotonous life, not quite happy with their work but having no other choice. Then they are thrust into extraordinary circumstances and realize there’s more to life than they ever knew. Lucy (a literal 6 year old who’s quite literally the son of the devil) from the book reminds me of 22 (an unborn soul), because both are technically children but through the course of the story, they teach the adult main character the true meaning of life. Overall too, both Soul and The House In The Cerulean Sea are heartfelt and bittersweet stories with lots of meaning and a tinge of melancholy.

The Incredibles – Renegades

Incredibles 2 - The Final Battle - Ending Scene - video Dailymotion

Helen: Everyone is special, Dash.

Dash: That’s just another way of saying no one is.

The Incredibles is set in a fictional world where superheroes (also known as “Supers”) co-exist with society and are occasionally forced into action despite a ban issued on them by the government. And Incredibles 2 focuses on Helen (the woman in the picture) pulling off a publicity stunt while Bob (the burly red man in the picture) is left to take care of the kids.

“Heroism wasn’t about what you could do, it was about what you did. It was about who you saved when they needed saving.”

Renegades

The first of a trilogy, Renegades follows Nova, who can put people to sleep with a touch and Adrian, who can bring his drawings to life. Except they are on opposite sides – Adrian is a Renegade, a champion of justice, defender of the city, while Nova is an Anarchist, the villain whose sole purpose is to bring the Renegades down.

_____________

What more do I need to say other than superheroes!! *jazz hands and squeaky voice*
Yeah no see, I haven’t seen a single Marvel movie in my life (eek don’t come at me) but with The Incredibles movies and the Renegades trilogy put together, I’ve had a healthy dose of superheroes already. And what a delight both of them were! Secret identities, extraordinary powers and exploring the thin line between “hero” and “villain” were the common themes in the movies and the books. While the movie understandably had a comparatively basic plot, the trilogy was complexity at its finest – with morally grey characters, intertwining storylines, epic showdowns, horrifying betrayals and what not. (also hands up if anyone thinks Max from the books is anything like Jack Jack from the movie *raises hand*)

Raya and the Last Dragon – The Great Zoo Of China

Raya and the Last Dragon' Review: A Wonderful Film, and a Missed  Opportunity | Arts | The Harvard Crimson

Raya: Yeah, well, the world’s broken. You can’t trust anyone

Sisu: Or maybe it’s broken, because you don’t trust anyone. 

The film depicts a warrior princess who seeks the fabled last dragon, with hopes of restoring the dragon gem that would bring back her father and banish the evil spirits from her kingdom.

“Convincing someone to believe something that was inherently unbelievable often meant getting that person to make a quick and easy comparison to something they already knew.”

The Great Zoo Of China

The Chinese government have found a species of animal no one believed even existed, and are ready to unveil their astonishing discovery within the greatest zoo ever created. A small group of VIPs and journalists have been brought to the zoo to witness the creatures for the first time. But everything goes horribly wrong…

_____________

It’s a pity I don’t talk more about this book because it’s fantastic but criminally underrated. In my defense, I read it long back, before I was part of the bookish community. But anyway. Once again the similarity between the movie and the book is glaringly clear – dragons!! Both feature talking dragons (though the ones in the book is more science than myth) and a unique bond between a human and a dragon. The Great Zoo of China gives more Jurassic Park vibes though, but then again, it’s meant for an adult audience so there’s obviously more violence and creepy money makers.

Frozen – A Sweet & Bitter Magic

Disney's 'Frozen': The Acting and Performance Analysis

Some people are worth melting for.

Olaf, Frozen

Frozen depicts a princess (Anna) who sets off on a journey alongside an iceman (Kristoff), his reindeer (Sven), and a snowman (Olaf) to find her estranged sister (Elsa), whose icy powers have inadvertently trapped their kingdom in eternal winter.

“It felt too simple. To move forward, carrying the weight of what she’d done without letting it hold her back. It was a delicate balance. Just like magic. Just like families and relationships and sisters who shared the same face but not the same heart.”

In Sweet & Bitter Magic, a witch cursed to never love (Tamsin) meets a girl hiding her own dangerous magic (Wren), and the two strike a dangerous bargain to save their queendom.

_____________

We can’t have a post about Disney movies without mentioning Frozen, the movie which took little girls all over the world by storm (hehe no pun intended) with it’s iconic characters (yes i’m talking about Olaf and Sven) and royalty depiction and ~snow~. (SO. MUCH. SNOW. It physically hurts my eyes sometimes to see all the white. I very much prefer the dark green-ness of the shadow & bone series). Anyway back to comparing it to A Sweet And Bitter Magic. So there are sisters that have been torn apart by circumstances (Elsa and Anna, Tasmin and Marlena) and one sister is magical and the other is not (sort of, for the book). The main conflict in both the movie and the book is magic run rampant, plaguing the town of the characters. Plus, I find both the plots quite basic and straight forward, with just one storyline and minimal twists. (and the colours in the cover match the scene i picked! what more could you want?)

Are you a Disney enthusiast too? Have you read any of these books?
And finally, in true Disney spirit, let’s say it together, to infinity… and beyond! (bonus points to everyone who got the reference)

~ Rachel

Recommending Books Based On Disney Movies // ft. book quotes and movie dialogues because why not

I watched Encanto the other day and I think it’s fair to say that I was, once again, blown away.

Every time, every single time I watch (or re-watch because I’m obsessed) a Disney movie, I think “This is it. This movie is going to be the first disney movie I didn’t like and that would mean I’ve finally grown out of these cheesy stories”, but needless to say that has never happened and I don’t see it happening any time soon. Disney 8093, Rachel 0. (to be fair it’s a very strong competitor and my heart betrays me every time.)

Conclusion is that I LOVE disney movies (especially the animated “family” ones that my mother says I’m too old to be watching) and will probably continue to do so for an eternity. Today I recommend you books similar to certain movies (or the other way round, since most of you have probably read more books on this list than you’ve seen the movies).

So here’s how the formatting is gonna be – one liner premises each for the move and the book, and thirdly why I paired them, with the main reasons in bold. And some book quotes and movie dialogues flying about here and there of course ;))

Big Hero 6 – We Are Not Free

Photos:: Scenes from 'Big Hero 6' - Los Angeles Times

On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your pain?

Baymax, Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 tells the story of Hiro Hamada (a teen robotics prodigy) and Baymax (the cuddly white inflated lump in the picture, Hiro’s late brother’s healthcare provider robot) who team up to fight the masked villain who killed Tadashi (Hiro’s brother).

“We’re standing on a street corner with everything we’ve ever known about to come crashing down around us.
And we’re angry.
And we’re smiling.
And we aren’t broken.”

We Are Not Free

We Are Not Free is a historical fiction told from the points of views of 14 Japanese-American teenagers just after the bombing of the Pearl Harbour, when anti-Japanese sentiments in the USA are at an all time high.

___________

Apart from the fact that both of these made me ugly cry like never before, a common theme was teens handling grief. Both start with a happy enough scene (such that it makes one almost suspicious, is this the calm before the storm), and then immediately there’s this horrifying event that changes the main character’s life drastically, as they lose what they’d always known and loved. Then the rest of the story shows the characters learning to live with their loss and moving on. Grab some tissues.

Coco – Cemetery Boys

How Pixar Made Sure 'Coco' Was Culturally Conscious - The New York Times

“If there’s no one left in the living world to remember you, you disappear from this world.”

Hector, Coco

Coco follows Miguel (an aspiring musician, but only in secret), who accidentally gets transported to The Land of the Dead (on the famous Mexican holiday “The Day of the Dead”) where he seeks the help of his deceased great-great-grandfather to return him to his family among the living and to reverse his family’s ban on music.

“I implore you to be more open minded, hermano. If we close ourselves off to the possibilities that lie outside of what tradition has dictated, we are destined for extinction.”

Cemetery Boys
Cemetery Boys

Cemetery Boys is about Yadriel, who while trying to prove himself to his family, ends up accidentally summoning the ghost of Julian Diaz. What follows is their adventures and misadventures as they try to solve the mystery of Julian’s death, and Yadriel’s seemingly never ending struggle with his conservative family.

___________

These two give me such similar vibes, I’ve always recommended Coco to fans of Cemetery Boys and vice versa. Both are centred around tight-knit Latinx communities and have a brilliant representation of ancient Mexican culture (especially the whole Day Of The Dead concept that I’ll never get bored of, any recs??) but that is not where the similarities end. Both stories are also about the main characters finding their true selves, even when this requires them to go against the wishes of their conservative families.

Zootopia – The Grishaverse

Did a Disney animated film really say that? If it's 'Zootopia,' prepare to  be shocked - Los Angeles Times

Judy: Nicholas Wilde, You are under arrest.
Nick: For what? Hurting your feelings?
Judy: Felony Tax Evasion.

Zootopia follows Judy Hopps, a police officer with big dreams (and she’s a bunny in case you haven’t noticed) and Nick Wilde, a con-fox who lives off trickery. They are reluctant partners in solving a grave case that has the whole of Zootopia shaken.

“Sometimes, the only way to get justice is to take it for yourself.”

Crooked Kingdom

The Six Of Crows duology follows six dangerous outcasts on a dangerous mission with high stakes… and a even higher reward.
The King Of Scars duology, which is also set in the Grishaverse, is about a young king trying to bring together a broken nation, while also battling monsters of his own. Literally.

___________

Did I just pair one of my favourite Disney movies ever to my favourite books ever? Why, yes I did.

Nick to me seems like a blend of Kaz and Nikolai, which are two of the best characters in existence, and this makes Nick one of the best characters in existence too (wow. incredible logic rachel). I mean, look at that scene I’ve put a picture of and tell me that’s not Nikolai’s smug grin pasted on Nick’s face. Then look at that quote beside the picture and tell me it’s not something Kaz would say. See what I mean?

Plus, Judy gives me Inej + Matthias vibes, she’s a rabbit with honour and this want to do good for the people, even though she knows she’s not going to get anything back. Do you need any more reasons to just go read those four books and watch that movie? (lemme know if you do, I’ll be happy to provide a list) Missing the deadline of that 12 page geography project will be totally worth it, i promise.

Monsters University – Not My Problem

Stop being a Sullivan and start being YOU.

Mike, Monsters University
Monsters University (2013) - IMDb

Monsters University follows Mike Wazowski (an ambitious, hardworking and studious first-year at the university) and James Sullivan (the “rich dad’s kid” who relies on his family name to make it through college), who hate each other but are thrust together by circumstances.

Not My Problem

“I dug deep down into my empathy store and found a dried-up old raisin.”

Aideen, Not My Problem

Not My Problem is a coming-of-age contemporary about Aideen (who is funny and witty and has a million excuses for not doing PE and homework) and Meabh (the one everyone expects a lot from, also the principal’s daughter), and when Aideen solves Meabh’s tight-schedule problem by pushing her down the stairs, an friendship begins to blossom.

___________

There’s this common academic background in Not My Problem and Monster’s University – the former is set in high school and the latter in college. Both have a dash of rivals to best friends and show that friendships can be found in the unlikeliest of places (at some point, the mcs in both the movie and the book were told that the other mc is “out of their league”), The main characters couldn’t be more different than each other, yet as they get to know the other better, they discover edges of their personalities they’d never imagined. Sullivan from the movie and Meabh from the book were both pressured to live up to their family name, so that’s another similarity.

As we conclude, I’d like to remind you that regardless of whether you are obsessed with enjoy Disney movies or not (the latter is a crime I tell you, a CRIME), all of these books belong to my favourites of 2021 so you have to give them a read (i’ll haunt your dreams if you don’t) and later scream about them to me too! (also i do have some more recs in mind, so let me know if you’d like a part 2 of this post!)

Do you watch animated movies? Which is your favourite one? Any Zootopia fans here?? Do you vote for a part 2 of this post? Let me know in the comments!

~ Rachel

My Top 10 Reads Of 2021! // in which i run out of words to describe these books

Ho Ho Ho! (ok my Santa imitation needs work)

Merry Christmas to all humans and elves alike! Let there be cheer! And presents! (you’ll never guess what i got! but maybe in another post) And candy! And more candy!

What better occasion than Christmas to flaunt my favourites (aka my obsessions) of this year? I read a total of 70 books in 2021, but only some of them are truly special to me. I’ve chosen the 10 books I liked the best (+ some honourable mentions of course), books that own my heart and soul, books I’ll never stop recommending till the day I die (atleast i’ll get prizes for the drama? no?)

I have also done the heart-wrenching task of actually ranking these books (believe me, it only looks easy) however I’d also like to mention that all of them have an equal place in my heart, but some more equal than the others (yes that was an Animal Farm reference). To keep the suspense rolling, we’ll go in reverse order; that means we’ll start off from number 10 all the way to number 1 (with #1 being like the best book of the year), and NOW I’M SO EXCITED I CAN’T WAIT ANYMORE LET’S STA–

~ #10 The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Choksi ~

“’You and your secrets.
‘Secrets keep my hair lustrous,’ said Severin, running his hand through his curls.”

I’d been hearing about this all over the bookish community, and though I read so many mixed opinions, one thing that I found common in all the reviews was the comparison to six of crows. Obviously, I knew I had to give this a try. And I wasn’t disappointed. Sure, it was a lot like the soc duology, but it put a different twist into everything. And not to forget, the author is an indian (like me!) and believe me the desi vibes were up to the mark (“laila-majnun”? i’m dying) and of course I adored the moral greyness (is that even a word?) of the characters. The banter was *chef’s kiss* and don’t even get me started on the found family.

~ #9 Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth ~

“I dug deep down into my empathy store and found a dried-up old raisin.”

To say that this book made me laugh would be an understatement. It had me snorting and chuckling and giggling (in the most embarrassing way) and basically a lot of people around me thought I’d finally lost it so there’s that. There was Aideen, aka the best narrator ever. There was the perfectly accurate description of students in a high school. And then there was Meabh. Sweet, perfect Meabh in whom I saw so much of myself that I think the author somehow based her off my personality. But. The whole point of those graphics were to stop me from boring you to death with essays, so we stop here.

Why I picked this up: It’s no coincidence that I started reading this a couple of days after reading Anoushka’s review! I was feeling the contemporary vibes anyway, so after reading her review I was sure I needed this!

~ #8 We Are Not Free by Traci Chee ~

“Is this what life is like? People coming together and drifting apart, coming together and drifting apart, over and over until there’s no one left?”

The award for “Most Tears Of The Year” (yes I just made that up) goes to We Are Not Free by Traci Chee! 14 POVs brought out the individuality of each character beautifully, and while this was not my first Traci Chee book, it was definitely the most impactful. And I’m sure it will also leave a lasting impact on you (and those poor tissues that’ll get wet in the process)

Why I picked it up: I decided to give this a try after reading Cherelle’s review!

~ #7 Supernova by Merissa Meyer ~

“Some people were always meant to be heroes.
Just like some people were always meant to be villains.”

Superheroes. And supervillains. But not the cheesy kind, I promise.

The third and final book in the Renegades trilogy, Supernova was the best of the lot. It was filled to the brim with action and anguish and secrets and I couldn’t have hoped for a better ending.

Why I picked it up: It was because of April’s review of the Renegades trilogy that I decided to read it. (though April, I do realize that you liked the first two books better?? but anyway.)

~ #6 Sands Of Arawiya Duology by Hafsah Faizal ~

A thousand leagues and a thousand sands. For you, a thousand times I would defy the sun.

I swear there’s some sorcery involved here because Faizal straight off picked all my favourite tropes, topped it with mind-blowing writing and humour, and named the result the Sands Of Arawiya duology. That’s how good this book is.

If you’re curious about the tropes in question, we had enemies to lovers, knife to throat, slow burn and plenty of witty banter. Still need convincing? Read the epic showdown of WHTF against the hype-o-meter!

Why I picked it up: I read Cherry’s and Kaya’s reviews, and it was then I knew that I needed to read this duology!

~ #5 Aurora Cycle duology by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff ~

“He asks for nothing, this boy. No favor. No quarter. He lives every moment of his life is pain, but still, he lives it. And he stands, where others would have long ago fallen.”

Full of complex and well-developed characters, found family vibes, and cool spaceships, the Aurora Cycle duology (now a trilogy) has to be one of the best space operas I’ve ever read! And WOULD YOU LOOK AT THOSE COVERS??

Why I picked it up: Madeline convinced me to pick up this one through her constant ramblings about this series on her blog! Ashmita also recommended this to me!

~ #4 These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong ~

“You know me. Running around. Living life. Committing arson.”

Ok this was another one of those instances where I got carried away by the hype and am glad I was. Because #ownvoices historical fiction! set in asia! blood feuds! morally grey characters! badass girl and soft boy! enemies to lovers at it’s finest! and whatever else I mentioned in the graphic of course, but tell me, do you still need a reason to go bury your nose in These Violent Delights right now?

~ #3 Rule Of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo ~

“The world might crumble, but Nikolai Lantsov would be holding up the ceiling with one hand and plucking a speck of dirt from his lapel with the other when it all went to ruin”

I’ll have you know that this was the book that pushed These Violent Delights out of the top 3 at the very last moment. I finished reading the duology (but I put only rule of wolves here because i found it even better than king of scars) just yesterday evening, it doesn’t get any more last-minute than that. Also please do understand that because of the reason stated above, my feelings for this one are very fresh. So. ASJHDFHFGSJK MISS BARDUGO YOU DID IT AGAIN I LOVED THIS SO SO MUCH IT’S BRILLIANT. And did I mention I’m obsessed with Zoya and Nikolai’s characters? And the Six of Crows references were EVERYTHING.

~ #2 House In The Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune ~

“Sometimes, he thought to himself in a house in a cerulean sea, you were able to choose the life you wanted. And if you were of the lucky sort, sometimes that life chose you back.

With dry sarcastic humour, out of the world character development and found family vibes, The House In The Cerulean Sea is in short, AWESOME. It will tug at all your heartstrings (note the use of “will”) and make you laugh and cry and then smile through watery eyes and much more including staring at the wall trying to process how a book can be so beautiful.

~ #1 Six Of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo ~

““Greed is your god, Kaz.”
He almost laughed at that. “No, Inej. Greed bows to me. It is my servant and my lever.”

At this point, I am 200% sure this doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone, given the amount of SoC references there are in my posts. And there have also been posts specifically dedicated to this duology (apart from the review), the latest being Books I’d Use As Weapons // aka books i’d throw at jesper if i was david.
I am wholly and truly OBSESSED with everything that has to do with this duology. I don’t even have words (turns out, i do) to describe the sheer PERFECTION this duology is – it’s captivating, it’s brilliant, it’s… perfect. (yeah I’m running out of synonyms here)

Why I picked it up: Well because it is so massively hyped and everyone was raving about it. But I first came to know about it from Cherelle’s blog last year, so shout-out to her!

A quick little vote of thanks before we move one- THANK YOU Anoushka, Cherelle, April, Cherry, Kaya, Madeline and Ashmita for recommending these fantastic reads to me because it’s very likely i never would have read these without your persuasion!

I had to include an Honourable Mentions section because I am afraid of the wrath of the bookish gods even though these books couldn’t make it to my top 10 because of ~competition~, nevertheless they cannot be left out as they were also absolutely amazing books that deserve all the love they can get.

Cemetery Boys
Perfect on Paper

Soo I feel like I’m supposed to make an eloquent speech at the end of this post so here goes *ahem * GO READ ALL OF THESE BECAUSE TRUST ME, YOU NEED THESE IN YOUR LIFE OKAY?! Ok not quite the eloquence I was hoping for but it gets the point across.

How was your Christmas? Candy? Gifts?? Which were your best reads in 2021? Have you read any of mine? Thoughts?
Oh and before you go, let’s scream it together – NO MOURNERS, NO FUNERALS!!

~ Rachel

Book Review: We Are Not Free by Traci Chee || an impactful historical fiction revolving around discrimination, friendships and loss during WWII

News of the day (week? month?) – I’ve found a new book to obsess over.

This review was supposed to be written the way all my other reviews are written – a day or two after I finish the book. This time, it’s been around two weeks since I finished reading, but I kept putting off writing this review, probably because I needed time to recover, to mend from the emotional wreck this beautifully written novel made of me. The healing is still in process, but I can’t let that stop me from screaming about this amazing read to you guys! (it’s less of a review and more of a call-out: come suffer with me)

Title: We Are Not Free
Author: Traci Chee
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction

Synopsis:
“All around me, my friends are talking, joking, laughing. Outside is the camp, the barbed wire, the guard towers, the city, the country that hates us.
We are not free.
But we are not alone.”
 
We Are Not Free, is the collective account of a tight-knit group of young Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens, whose lives are irrevocably changed by the mass U.S. incarcerations of World War II.
Fourteen teens who have grown up together in Japantown, San Francisco.
Fourteen teens who form a community and a family, as interconnected as they are conflicted.
Fourteen teens whose lives are turned upside down when over 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry are removed from their homes and forced into desolate incarceration camps.
In a world that seems determined to hate them, these young Nisei must rally together as racism and injustice threaten to pull them apart. 

We Are Not Free is a historical fiction set during World War II in America. The story begins just after the bombing of the Pearl Harbour by the Japanese airforce, following which there is hatred and racism against the people of Japanese ancestry living in America. Anti-Japanese sentiments are at an all time high, and this leads to the creation of the policy that people of Japanese descent, including U.S. citizens, would be incarcerated in isolated camps, for no fault of theirs except for looking the way they do.

The most, though not the only, exceptional thing about this story was the execution. Sure, a lot of us know the history, some more than others. But it takes amazing masterful ability to weave history, to narrate it, without subtracting the brutalities and complexities, in a way that has a lasting impact on the reader, and Chee did just that.

“Is this what life is like? People coming together and drifting apart, coming together and drifting apart, over and over until there’s no one left?”

The book is narrated by a group of fourteen young Nisei (second-generation Japanese American citizens) who are among the thousands uprooted from their homes and placed in incarceration camps because of their Japanese ancestry.

When I heard that there were 14 POVs, I was naturally intimidated, but I realize now that needn’t have been. We get one chapter from each character’s point-of-view, some longer than others, but each more heartfelt than the last. All our 14 main characters are Japanese-American youngsters – the youngest being Minnow who is 14 and the eldest being Mas, 22. When I’d just begun reading the book, I was sure I’d have a hard time keeping up with all the povs, but boy was I wrong. 14 POVs made it a whole lot easier to connect with the characters, to see life through their eyes.

Each chapter, each POV was unique in its own way, and this brought out the individuality of each of the characters in a beautiful manner. Every character reacts in his/her own way to this drastic change in their lives – some choosing to be optimists, while others resorting to violence – and this was portrayed beautifully by their respective POVs. Sure, all 14 of them are a tight-knit community (whose friendship is just 🥺), but each has their own aspirations and conflicts. No two chapters were written in the same style, and rightly so, for each had to depict a different personality – and I can only imagine the effort this might have taken the author to accomplish. Traci Chee has my utmost respect.

This was one of those books that progressively get better as they go, with each chapter better than the previous ones (I have a sneaking suspicion Chee was saving the best ones for the end). Speaking of which. Those last few chapters were not written in words, they were emotions – pure, raw emotions scrawled on the pages. If I got teary eyed though the middle of the story, I was full on bawling towards the end.

Such powerful and heavy topics are dealt with in this novel, albeit in a way that doesn’t make them seem out-of-reach or too much to grasp, instead it made all the prejudices, racial discrimination, violence against the Japanese feel real. I as the reader flinched every time one of our characters was a victim to the atrocities, verbal or physical, of narrow minded people — from when Minnow got jumped by a gang of American teens to when a man refused to sell Yuki icecream because she was Japanese, to countless other racist actions that take place throughout the story.

The story’s meaningful and heart-wrenching take on discrimination is something that I am not likely to forget soon, and I’m grateful that books like these exist to give today’s generation a brutal reminder of the mistakes made by humanity in the past, which continue to have consequences in the present.

“We’re standing on a street corner with everything we’ve ever known about to come crashing down around us.
And we’re angry.
And we’re smiling.
And we aren’t broken.”

Overall, We Are Not Free was hopeful, heartbreaking and devastating all at once. I’d highly recommend this to all of you, especially to fans of The Outsiders, The Book Thief and The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas.

Have you read We Are Not Free? What did you think (aka did it break you?) Which is your favourite war novel? Let me know in the comments!

8 Diverse Books I Loved, And 8 That Are On My TBR!

Before I became a part of the bookish community, most of my reads were by straight white authors with likewise leads. Since then, I have become so much more aware due to lots of lovely people who promote diversity on their blogs/ booktube etc.

As an Asian myself, I understand how important it is for different cultures to be shown in books, and it is a different feeling altogether to feel represented. In the last couple of months, more than half of the books I’ve read recently are by Asian authors or have Asian characters so I am proud of how far I’ve come.

Diversity in books can mean a lot of things, but this list shall be focusing on books written by POC authors and/or having POC leads. In the first part of this post, I’ll be showcasing some of my favourite diverse reads with their highlights and in the second part, I’ll be listing diverse books which I’ve not read but are on my TBR!

I hope you have your Goodreads (or wherever you make your tbr list) open and ready, because we are starting now!

(the formatting is off in the Reader, kindly click here to read further!)

Cemetery Boys
💘 spirits (and a certain sweet but possessive, bad boy spirit)
💘 mexican culture
💘 themes of identity and acceptance
💘 fantasy with contemporary feel

The Girl Who Drank The Moon
💘 witchy
💘 whimsical, dreamy writing
💘 magic running wild
💘 multiple third person POVs

Where The Mountain Meets The Moon
💘 talking goldfishes and lion statues
💘 chinese folklore
💘 dragons!
💘 beautiful atmosphere and conclusion

We Hunt The Flame
💘 arabia – inspired fantasy
💘 atmospheric setting and brilliant world-building
💘 subtle found family with lots of banter
💘 morally grey characters

A Clash Of Steel
💘 set in imperial china
💘 pirates! and lost treasure!
💘 strong woman characters
💘 treasure island retelling

How We Fall Apart
💘 majority of the cast is Asian
💘 thrilling murder mystery
💘 set in an elite prep school
💘 secrets and rivalry and revenge

The Reader
💘 secret society
💘 a world where books are banned
💘 deep and meaningful writing
💘 pirate stories!

We Are Not Free
💘 set during WWII
💘 love, life and laughs amidst war
💘 14 POVs
💘 heart wrenching and impactful


Here are 8 diverse books I am yet to read, but will hopefully be picking up soon!

Amari and the Night Brothers (Supernatural Investigations, #1)
These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights, #1)
Jade Fire Gold
A Magic Steeped in Poison (The Book of Tea, #1)
The Gilded Ones (Deathless, #1)
Daughter of the Moon Goddess (The Celestial Kingdom Duology, #1)
Legendborn (The Legendborn Cycle #1)
The Bones of Ruin

Have you read any of these? Do you have any more diverse recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!

~ Rachel

We Hunt The Flame vs the Hype-o-meter // Review

Before we go any further, I have some good news – we’ve officially reached 200 followers on A Bookworm’s Paradise! In honour of this, I want to have a Q & A session (in a separate post of course), so please put any questions you may have about me in the comments and I’ll answer them in the coming weeks.

With that out of the way, we are now down to business! This is the second post in a series, in collaboration with the lovely April @Booked Till Midnight, where we review books in a different way because we set them up against our self created hype-o-meter and determine whether or not a popular book is worth the hype! Click here to know all the deets about this series, and here to read the first showdown. Let’s get started!

We Hunt the Flame (Sands of Arawiya, #1)

Title: We Hunt The Flame

Author: Hafsah Faizal

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Format: E-book

Synopsis:

People lived because she killed. People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. Both Zafira and Nasir are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya–but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds–and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

The first thing you’ll notice about We Hunt The Flame is the brilliant worldbuilding. The author has somehow managed to make the atmosphere so lush, so vivid that it felt as if the atmosphere had come alive. The book is set in a rich, ancient Arabia-inspired world and I could picture it all in my head.(swirling sands here, biting snow and ice there – honestly the perfect setting) (Pro of being a language nerd and reading a book with snippets of a foreign language: I now know about 4 words of the Arabic language *applause please*) (Also I have taken quite a liking to Arabic expressions and curse words so do not be surprised if you see a the occasional rimaal, khara, and laa in my posts)(okay I am gonna stop with the parentheses now)

Next, all the elements of this new fantasy world – Arawiya, are introduced. Somehow, even some of the info dump did not seem like an info dump, in fact I wanted to drink it all in and everything from the history (the Sisters and such) to the five caliphates and their respective ‘curses’ intrigued me. Way to go!!

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

I couldn’t do justice to this review without mentioning the characters. This book had exceptionally well-crafted characters and I fell in love with every single one of them. Our female protagonist, Zafira was shown initially as a balanced, collected personality, but as the story progresses we slowly unravel her outer layers and see the true, intense emotions and memories inside. The same could go for Nasir, our male protagonist. Everybody, look up, because THIS is how you write a perfect morally grey character. GIVE ME ALL THAT INNER ANGST. Kifah is our badass, no-nonsense exiled princess who also happens to be the one to say the iconic “We hunt the flame dialogue”. And Benyamin, our arrogantly wise safi who… *chokes and bites back a sudden sob* who looks down on all mortals but slowly comes to care about our zumra over time.

And now I would like to formally dedicate an entire paragraph to Altair al-Badawi, a certain conundrums-loving general who stole my heart. He was (literally) the sunshine to Nasir’s grumpiness, and their banter was *chef’s kiss*. Altair reminded me a little bit of Jesper, but then again, he was unlike any other character I’ve ever seen before. I mean, that character development?? I went from wanting to kill Altair myself to smirking at his jokes to praying Nasir wouldn’t kill him to being all NOOOO about him in the end (don’t worry he doesn’t die… its something worse *evil laugh*) Not surprisingly, he goes on my list of favourite characters (wait I have a list? Of course I do. No I don’t. Shut up internal dialogue.) Bottom line – this man was amazing in every way.

“I’ll have to introduce you by saying, ‘He’s not always this grumpy. Then again, he’s one of those people who talks less and murders more’.”

It looks like Faizal collected all of my favourite tropes and other elements and wove them into a story. Found family!!! Enemies to lovers!!! Slow burn!!! Knife-to-throat trope!!! Witty dialogue and banter!!! (in other words – a guide to make Rachel fall in love with a book) You know how I am generally criticizing certain books *cough* the young elites *cough* for their lack of dialogue? And how y’all might have thought such a book doesn’t exist? Make way, because here comes the book with outstanding dialogue, just the way I love!

 

Finally, we come to the plot (I really need to learn how to sequence and prioritize). The story follows our zumra (arabic for a group), a bunch of characters who couldn’t be more different from each other, who set out on a journey through a cursed island to retrieve a book that’s supposed to restore magic to their kingdom. Oh, and one of them is an assassin who’s supposed to kill the rest. Pleasant, right? Yes I thought so. 

What happens when we pit this brilliantly executed story with settings and atmosphere inspired from ancient Arabia with a totally cool cast of characters and just the best tropes against the hype-o-meter? Why, it wins of course.

But what did April think about the whole thing? Did she love the book as much as I did? Click here to find out!

Oh and before you go, could you take out a minute and fill this feedback form for my blog? Please and thank you. Here’s the link – https://forms.gle/CYkBpZXUm4hsuJQm8

Have you read We Hunt The Flame? What would you rate it on the hype-o-meter? Which is your favourite fantasy set in Asia? Let me know in the comments!!

Goodbye, zumra!

~ Rachel

Normal! // Fantasies In Which The Main Character Does Not Have Magical Abilities

Let’s play that game where you have to say the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear a particular word. Music? Dancing. TV? Netflix. Fantasy? Magic…oh wait.

Welcome to the fourth and final post in the series of themed recommendation posts I have been writing on my blog lately! In this series, I choose a random theme, and give you some of the best books I have read based on that theme. You can read my previous posts which were part of this series here, here and here!

Okay, so let’s talk about that little game I played in the beginning. Why is that the human brain associates fantasy with magic? Of course, this association is not unjustified. I believe about 95% of books belonging to the fantasy genre that I have read recently revolve around magic and/or have a main character who has magical powers. But fantasy itself should not be defined as mere magic. In light of this, today Rachel brings you a list of fantasy novels she loved which have a ‘normal’ main character, as in, the main character does not have any magical powers. Click on the cover images to add the books to your Goodreads TBR!

The House In The Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune || My Review

The House In The Cerulean Sea is going to be at the top of every recommendation post (and other posts too) from now on so you’ll have to get used to it. What can I say about this beautiful book that hasn’t already been said? Go read this heartwarming, hopeful and magical (albeit without the literal magic- at least not in the main character) fantasy if you haven’t already.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

I am impressed how the author has created such an immersive dystopian world without it being based on magic. I was quite obsessed with the trilogy when I read it though some things in Allegiant were disappointing *cough* that ending *cough* but do give it a read if you’re looking for an intense and fast paced dystopian fantasy.

Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman || My Review

Yes, yes I know what you’re thinking but I am not really considering Auri as a main character because she doesn’t have much role to play in this book as in the second one (and anyway what she does is not exactly ‘magic’, right?). But looking at our crew, the six main characters, none of them have magical powers and perhaps that’s one of the reasons Aurora Cycle duology is a huge favourite of mine.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Ah I had read this so long back (read: 1.5 years back), in the school library. I don’t remember much, but I do recollect recommending this to a lot of my friends and being surprised about the lack of magical powers in the characters.

The Great Zoo Of China by Matthew Reily

I just realized I haven’t mentioned this book on my blog ever! I mean, how is that possible? Trust me to forget unforgettable books. Anyway, The Great Zoo Of China is a brilliant book (5 stars from me when I read it a year back!) with lots of action, and even more dragons. Perfect for anyone suffering from Jurassic Park hangover.

Honourable Mentions

Six Of Crows by Leigh Bardugo!! Yes, there is magic and all in the Grishaverse, but do notice that of our six crows, four do not have any magical abilities (oh my god I hope nobody got spoiled) hence the mention.

I recently read the entire Heroes Of Olympus series by Rick Riordan and I realized that from the crew of 7 demigods, it is only Annabeth who does not have any magical powers. The HOO series will definitely not make it to this list (too much magic!) but Annabeth does deserve an honorable mention, doesn’t she?


And with that, my friends, we conclude this post as well as the recommendation series! I must admit, recommendation posts are much harder than they look, but I did enjoy writing all the four posts. Hopefully you enjoyed reading them too and found some new books to add to your TBR list.

Did you find this recommendation series helpful? Have you read any of the books I mentioned in this post? Which is your favourite fantasy with a ‘normal’ main character? Chat with me in the comments! Until later!!

Book Review: The House In The Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

A home isn’t always the house we live in. It’s also the people we choose to surround ourselves with.

Hello guys! Before we move on, I wanted to tell you that we have reached 150 followers!! I’ve probably said this before but I want you all to remember that I’m extremely grateful to all of you and and I feel deeply appreciated whenever any one of you leaves behind a like or a comment on my posts. So a big thank you for that, I love you guys🥰

That brings us to what I am here to do today, which is review The House In The Cerulean Sea. This review is going to be completely spoiler free. (Also, quotes from the book will be all over this post, as you might already have noticed. I think I might have a case of book hangover) Without further ado, let’s get started!

Synopsis (via Goodreads)

A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

My Rating : ★★★★★ [5 out of 5 stars]
My Review

I have no idea how to begin, so how about this – I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK. Okay, so that was pretty obvious from my rating (when was the last time I gave a book a full 5 stars? hmm, in March I think) but seriously, The House In The Cerulean Sea probably deserves a million stars.

People can present themselves as being one way, and once you’re sure you know them, once you’re sure you’ve found what you’re looking for, they reveal themselves for who they really are.

The beginning was great (so was everything else but we’ll come to that) and the story wasted no time in getting to the point and shipping off Linus (the main character) to the Marsyas orphanage home. So one absolutely cannot complain about a slow beginning here.

Life, Linus Baker knew, came down to what we made from it. It was about the choices, both big and small.

The characters were just perfect. Linus was amazing, right from the beginning and even more so towards the end, and of course I loved each and every one of the children and their quirky personalities. Arthur and Zoe were so well written too. And might I add that Linus’s character development (not that there was anything wrong with him before, but you know) was the best I have EVER seen?

But even if you have bad dreams, you must remember they’re only that: dreams. You will always wake from them. And they will fade, eventually. I’ve found that waking from a bad dream brings a sense of relief unlike anything else in the world.

Among other things, I loved the dry humour which was quite prevalent in the first half of the book. Then of course, there was the found family trope (yes, found family!!) which was executed oh so beautifully, and once again proved my point that found family is the best trope to ever exist and that I’ll never ever get tired of it.

The things we fear the most are often the things we should fear the least. It’s irrational, but it’s what makes us human. And if we are able to conquer these fears, then there is nothing we’re not capable of.

Okay, so I am not even going to go into the regular stuff like the pacing, the writing style etc, because this book is just too good for any of that to be used to judge it. Everything about this book was so adorable and sweet and wholesome and just…beautiful🥺 and it definitely felt like a warm hug that goes right down to your soul. While reading this, I spent half of my time trying to swallow the lump in my throat, the other half smiling through my tears. The children, my precious lovelies, made me cry so many times with their sweet words to Linus. The story tugged at my heartstrings and gave me all the feels.

The world likes to see things in black and white, in moral and immoral. But there is gray in between. And just because a person is capable of wickedness, doesn’t mean they will act upon it.

So basically the whole point of my review is to say this – The House In The Cerulean Sea is a masterpiece. It made me feel all warm and fluffy and happy from the inside, something that no book has made me feel on such a large scale ever before. I have got no more words to describe how exquisite this entire story was.

“Smile and maybe tomorrow,” Arthur whispered in his ear. “You’ll see the sun come shining through for you.”

Found family? Check. Slow burn? Check. The best-est book ever? Check.

Sometimes, he thought to himself in a house in a cerulean sea, you were able to choose the life you wanted. And if you were of the lucky sort, sometimes that life chose you back.

Hidden Gems! // Under-hyped Books Which Deserve More Love

Hiya everyone! Today I bring you the third post in the series of themed recommendations that I have been doing on my blog since last week (read the first post here and the second one here in case you missed them!) Today’s theme is underrated or underhyped books which are favourites of mine.

I constantly keep bugging all of you to read Six Of Crows (in a very non-threatening way, of course😉) but I have realized of late that I don’t need to. 8 out of every 10 people I find on Goodreads have read (and loved, mostly) this duology. Similar is the case with so many books – Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, The Lunar Chronicles(I haven’t read this yet eek!), Hunger Games and countless more that we hear spoken about everyday in the bookish community. But what about all those books which are in no way lesser than these hot shots, but due to some reason are hardly ever mentioned in this blogosphere, or in the bookish community in general? There are so many hidden gems out there which definitely deserve much more hype than they get. So today I am going to be recommending you some amazing books which are unfortunately on the lowest rung of the ladder of “status in the bookish society”. Click on the cover images to add the books to your Goodreads TBR!

Nevermoor: The Trials Of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Of course this HAD to be on the top of this list! Nevermoor was one of my favourite reads in 2020, and it breaks my heart to see how so few really talk about it. All the characters were just *chef’s kiss* and it was endearing to see a child rejected by all (including her own father and step mother) because she was supposedly cursed and then later finding her place in Nevermoor. And Jupiter might just be the best fictional character ever written.

Malamander by Thomas Taylor

Why haven’t more people discovered this amazing book yet? It might be the only book written in first person POV that I have enjoyed so far. The main character, Herbie, was so simple yet so complicated, oblivious yet witty. You can read my full review of Malamander here.

The Wave by Morton Rhue

The Wave is a contemporary historical fiction based on a true event. It is a quick read, but it is truly thought-provoking and a must-read if you’re interested in history (like me!) blended with some high school drama.

The Flame Of Olympus by Kate O’Hearn

This was kinda like Percy Jackson set in a more contemporary world! There were redemptions, new friendships and so much more in this middle grade novel based on Roman mythology.

The Miracle On Ebenezer Street by Catherine Doyle

This is under-hyped on an epic level – only about 300 ratings on Goodreads! It was one of those warm (uhh metaphorically of course, its set during Christmas lol) and fluffy books you’d want to hug (does that sound weird 🙃) and will definitely cheer you up.

The Finisher by David Baldacci

I realize that this is probably the first time I am speaking about this book on my blog, but it use to be quite a favourite of mine when I bought and read the entire series. The Finisher is the first book in the four-book Vega Jane series, a dystopian fantasy that fans of Divergent and alike would probably enjoy.

And we are done for today! Hopefully your TBR got a little bigger!

Let’s Chat!

Have you read any of these books? Which is your favourite underrated/underhyped book? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. I am sorry if I am being a little boring nowadays, school’s really got to me and I think I may have began experiencing blogging burn-out. Hopefully I’ll be back to writing my normal *fun* posts soon!

Wet Worlds! // Books set in or by the sea

Hey guys! Water you up to? Did you sea what I did there? I am shore you did. (Okay stop groaning, I am just beginning to realize that puns are overrated.)

So I have decided to do a series of themed book recommendations because my brain can’t really think of anything else to post (take a hint and give me some suggestions!). This post is the second in this series (click here to read the first one). Personally, I do enjoy writing such posts and surfing (ooh no pun intended this time, I promise😂) through my Goodreads shelves trying to find more books which fit the theme.

As you already know from the title (and from my not-so-subtle intro lines), today I am going to be recommending you books set in or by the sea. What usually makes such books stand out is there extremely sea-vibey writing (who likes imagining sand between their toes and inhaling fresh salty sea air while reading books set by the sea? *raises a hand, and then the other as well for good measure*) Without further ado, let’s see what recs I have in store for you!

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Set on an island isolated except for 10 strangers, this remains till date, one of my favourite murder mysteries (and can I also mention that this was my first one?) My best start into a genre if there ever was one.

Malamander by Thomas Taylor

Malamander was such a lovely middle grade! The entire story takes place in a town called Eerie-On-Sea (naturally, it is situated by the sea) and the sea itself does play an important role in the book (Malamander is the name of a giant sea creature after all). The atmosphere was beautifully created – the sound of waves, the smell of salty sea air, the eerie noises that give the town its name, all seemed pretty much real in my head.

The Haunting Of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes

A spooky middle grade set in a small coastal town, this story had very atmospheric vibes. It can easily be read in a single sitting, so get out your blankets, snuggle in your couch during a rainy day and give this book a read!

Frostheart by Jamie Littler

Frostheart is a cute middle grade about a little boy trying to find his missing parents. He is often shunned by most people because of this power he has, but he gets taken in by the crew of a ship called Frostheart and finds friendships and betrayals on his journey. I haven’t read the sequel yet, but I hope to read it soon!

The Storm Keeper’s Island

A magical story set in an Irish island, this book is about the power (literally!) of nature and definitely worth a read.

The Adventure Series by Enid Blyton

You haven’t had a childhood if you haven’t read any Enid Blyton! Anyway, this particular series of hers called the Adventure series deals with ship voyages and other sea-stuff.

And that, my friends, brings us to the end of this post (I realize its much shorter than usual but…). Hopefully you got some great recommendations and your TBR just got a little bit bigger. See you in my next post!

𝓡𝓪𝓬𝓱𝓮𝓵

Check out my latest posts!