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!

The Inheritance Games vs the Hype-o-meter // Review

Just yesterday, I came across this new (to me!) thing called a recursive acronym. For those like yesterday-Rachel who have no clue what this official-sounding word means – basically it is an acronym where the first letter is the acronym itself. Ehh sounds over-the-top but the essence is not that complex. For example, GNU is a recursive acronym that stands for GNU’s Not Unix, then we can expand the GNU in the full form again to GNU’s Not Unix, and our new expansion would be GNU’s Not Unix Not Unix and so on till forever. 

Now you must be wondering, “why in the world is Rachel giving us a (barely comprehensible) lesson in literature?? Wasn’t this post supposed to be a review?”. 

Well I do have a reason for talking about all this apart from the fact that it is an interesting concept, and that is – similar ~vibes~. With the book I’m about to review. Traps upon traps, riddles upon riddles – yes, the gist of The Inheritance Games is pretty similar to that of a recursive acronym.

With all that done, let’s get started with today’s showdown, (know more about it this blog series here) which is The Inheritance Games, a book that has recently risen to popularity due to its upcoming sequel, against our hype-o-meter! 

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, #1)

Title: The Inheritance Games
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Genre: Young Adult Mystery, Contemporary
Synopsis:
Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.
Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.

If yes is no and once is never, then how much exactly did I enjoy this book? Now that’s a difficult one, because this was one of those books I am extremely conflicted about. If I had to rate it purely on the basis of enjoyment – an easy 4 – 4.5 stars. But as a reviewer I do have to think a tiny bit about other factors too, and in this case, let us just say these factors were not in the book’s favour. Let’s break it down.

“Everything’s a game, Avery Grambs. The only thing we get to decide in this life is if we play to win.”

The narration was first person. Probably no big deal for most of you, but believe me when I say my relationship with first person POV has not exactly been the best and mostly books with such narrations leave me mildly annoyed (pfft who am I kidding? It’s more like throwing-things-and-banging-doors-and-hitting-my-head-against-a-wall-repeatedly level annoyed.) My aggressive behavioural actions aside, The Inheritance Games was a surprise in this aspect – a pleasant one at that. I actually enjoyed Avery’s POV, so conclusion : she must have been a really good character. Yes, that she was.

In the very opening scene we are told how much of a genius Avery is when she aces an impossible physics test and is lowkey accused of cheating by her principal (which. not cool.) and is confident enough to promise the same score in a re-test. And she also beats a homeless man, who is apparently a brilliant chess player, at chess. After a few scenes we see her answer an impossible-sounding riddle asked by a drunk teenager without batting an eyelid (the riddle: ‘If yes is no and once is never, then how many sides does a triangle have?’). Upto this point, cool. 

The story till here is nicely constructed, all the events well thought out – a normal teenager who was living her life with her half-sister or in her car, attending school on a scholarship gets good news in the form of a snobby boy in a suit who informs her that his rich grandfather has left her his entire fortune of billions. Too easy, but I’ll take it. 

Things went downhill from here. I do not know whether I was just in a very critical mood, but it seemed to me that the author had simply lost interest in creating an intriguing mystery, and decided to just let Avery have a fortunate stroke of serendipity. Everything – the clues and riddles were extremely amateur, and anyone with a little common sense could have easily figured them out – let alone our supposedly brilliant protagonist working with four impossibly-smart brothers. 

“He left you the fortune, Avery, and all he left us is you.”

And man, the stakes?? It was established in the beginning that not much could be done to challenge Avery’s inheritance, so what was the point of the whole solving-riddles thing? I went in expecting a thrilling round of who-solves-the-mystery-first-gets-the-money but apparently my expectations were too high.

Yet, I would not say I disliked this book because, honestly, I did not. While the big reveals were okay-ish (for a mystery, the gasp factor was shockingly low.), it was the little moments that got to me. Those moments when we got away from the main plot for a while (like Avery’s initial disbelief of the house having a bowling alley, later the scene when her stylist were working on her with Libby snorting in the corner) made me giggle and were enjoyable, so that’s a plus. 

And then of course there was all the family drama, the sibling rivalry (4x!) and all the fun moments between Avery and each of the brothers so yes, while the book could have been better in a lot of aspects, it was goood. I’m excited for the sequel!

It was a tough fight with the hype-o-meter, but The Inheritance Games emerged as a solid, so there’s that. Not quite worth the hype, but certainly worth a try. Click here to read April’s review!

Have you read The Inheritance Games? What would you give it on the hype-o-meter? Do you have The Hawthorne Legacy on your radar? Let me know in the comments!

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

Book Review: The Ones We’re Meant To Find by Joan He || concept? brilliant. execution? not so much

Hiya everyone! How are you doing?

I certainly hope your state of mind is better than mine at the moment. I have this big exam coming up tomorrow, and exhaustion, anticipation, tension (but also a little relief) have built themselves a cozy home in my brain. But lets not go into the woes of us students’ because we have a review of a very anticipated release of mine today! Very exciting, right? *wiggles eyebrows*

The Ones We're Meant to Find

Title: The Ones We’re Meant To Find

Author: Joan He

Genre/Age group: Young Adult Science Fiction

Synopsis

Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay, and it’s up to Cee to cross the ocean and find her.

In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara lives in an eco-city built for people who protected the planet―and now need protecting from it. With natural disasters on the rise due to climate change, eco-cities provide clean air, water, and shelter. Their residents, in exchange, must spend at least a third of their time in stasis pods, conducting business virtually whenever possible to reduce their environmental footprint. While Kasey, an introvert and loner, doesn’t mind the lifestyle, her sister Celia hated it. Popular and lovable, Celia much preferred the outside world. But no one could have predicted that Celia would take a boat out to sea, never to return.

Now it’s been three months since Celia’s disappearance, and Kasey has given up hope. Logic says that her sister must be dead. But nevertheless, she decides to retrace Celia’s last steps. Where they’ll lead her, she does not know. Her sister was full of secrets. But Kasey has a secret of her own.

Buddy read with the lovely Janhavi @A Cottage Of Words!

Is it my fault I started reading this book with very high expectations? After hearing countless times how this book was the best of the best (not the exact terminology, but you get the point) and then after reading that amazing synopsis (don’t even get me started on the gorgeous cover), I really thought this was right up my alley. Boy was I wrong.

Imagine this. You are hurtled into a speeding train without any warning. And you’ve got no idea where it’s from, where it’s going to, who are the people around you etc etc. Apart from the obvious physical implications (ouch!) you know that impending feeling of… confusion? Okay so perhaps not the best metaphor, but this was how I felt for the entirety of this book.

Of course I don’t expect to understand every single thing in a sci-fi set decades (centuries? millennia?) in the future. But if I am reading a book, I should at least have an idea about the plot? I have a rule against using gifs in my reviews, otherwise I would have used this opportunity flaunt something of the type, “What’s going on??”. Maybe its just me, but the technological terms, the constantly switching timelines and loads of other stuff was totally beyond my comprehension skills.

“The problem with oceans? They always seem smaller from the shore.”

Let’s talk about what I liked before we go full attack mode again. Number one, the concept behind the story. It was extremely cool, intriguing and unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Next comes the world building and the atmosphere. There were several elements which were so interesting to grasp. A city in the sky? “Holoing”? Oh, and the best one was that humans actually invented something that would prompt you with the best phrases during a speech/conversation! I am terrible at socializing, so an AI like that would be incredibly helpful at awkward conversations that I have to face at social events.

So one of our main characters, Celia, is stranded on an island with almost no memories, and for a while, the entire survival plot was done really well (and no it wasn’t turned into a Swiss Family Robinson kinda thing) though I found some things like a ready made house and a robot a little to convenient. But I am willing to overlook that, and I will go as far as to say that I enjoyed reading Celia’s chapters (chapters told from her POV) for most part of the book. Kasey’s though… they were a whole different thing.

Before we go deeper let me introduce you to our two protagonists. Celia is the older sister – a cheerful, outgoing personality (before getting stranded on an island alone of course) who apparently hated the artificiality of their futuristic world. Kasey is a couple years younger than Celia and a polar opposite – introverted, would rather be around gadgets than people, extremely logical and scientific. Due to this, Kasey is often branded as insensitive.

“When I dream of her, it’s in vibrant color, unlike the gradients of gray of my monochrome days. But everything is hazy when I wake. The details merge. The colors fade.”

In the beginning, I found that I could relate to Kasey. Party-awkwardness, a little inexpressiveness are some traits I have in common with her. But the chapters after that were a roller coaster, and not a fun one at that. Literally all the chapters from Kasey’s point-of-view were difficult to grasp, and after a while I began skimming through them. *mock gasp* Yes I know it is a sin in the bookish tradition, but you do get how boring those parts must have been right? They just felt so bland, especially when compared to Celia’s chapters, which were mostly full of colour (omg now those you’ve read the book might think I am mocking Celia, but the pun was unintentional i swear). It came as a huge surprise to me that for once, I actually preferred a first-person narrative over third-person (Celia’s chapters were 1st person POV, Kasey’s were 3rd person) as I generally tend to dislike books with first person narrative *cough* the infinity courts *cough*.

No one, and I repeat, no one has ever mentioned this book without talking about the shocking twists, so I figured I’d cover that too. The thing is, I was waiting for my mind to completely blow up, but I ended up feeling a little underwhelmed by the plot twists. I remember thinking, this was what everybody was talking about? this is it??

Some of the side characters like Hero and Actinum were nicely written, and while I appreciate that, the ending made even less sense than the rest of the story. A character suddenly becomes the “villain” for the last couple of chapters… I mean, what??

Okay that was one chaotic review, but at least it covered everything I wanted to say. Overall, I was very disappointed, but 2.5 stars seems like a fair rating to me.

Have you read The Ones We’re Meant To Find? Which is your favourite book set in the future? Let’s chat in the comments!

~ Rachel

Missed my previous posts? Check them out now!!

Blog Tour: Down To Earth by Betty Culley + Moodboard

8 Things I Look For In Books // does it show that I am desperate for recs?

Books As Road Trips // a random post that emerged out of the void

The Young Elites vs The Hype-o-Meter!

Guys I have news for you, I redesigned my blog!! (yet again) It now has a new theme, a new header image and other stuff. If you haven’t seen it yet, hop out of your reader and go check it out!

And today we have a much anticipated (for me, but I hope it was for you too haha) post with us – the first in a collaborative series with April @Booked Till Midnight in which we pit popular books against our very own hype-o-meter. (have no clue what is going on? take a look at the introduction to this series here and here)

The first book we (buddy) read for this series was none other than The Young Elites by Marie Lu! Let’s see how it fared against the hype-o-meter.

Book Details

Title: The Young Elites

Author: Marie Lu

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Format: E-book

Synopsis:

I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

Thoughts

If The Young Elites was to be described in one word by me, the word would have been NO. I know it lacks eloquence, but I cannot find a better way to get my point across. The plot was a no, that characters were a no, the overall atmosphere was a no. Hey hey, don’t come at me with war hammers and pitchforks just yet, I’ll try to explain it all.

There was absolutely nothing unique about this book that separates it from 10476 other young adult fantasies out there. It’s almost like it was screaming “I am a typical fantasy that everybody got tired of long back” in every single page. People with magic are hunted? Check. Secret magical society? Check. Fire-boy? Check. Rebellious prince? You wouldn’t believe it, but unfortunately, check.

Normally, I am all for morally grey characters, but I took a dislike to Adelina, our very morally  grey main character right from the beginning. She was everything I hate in fictional characters – confused, self-pitying, often contradictory and repetitive, and of course, she had no idea how to sort her priorities and made bad decisions all the time. Our other main character, Enzo wasn’t much better either. The only character I actually cared about a little was Lucent, and guess what, only her name gets mentioned and that too perhaps half a dozen times in the book. Ever heard of character development?? Anyway, more on that later. 

The basic essence of the book doesn’t make sense, to be honest. Are you telling me this entire story takes place because our main character accidentally kills people?Is that even possible? If I wanted to sum up the plot of the book it would go – Oh, Adelina kills people by mistake and cries about it later, no biggie. 

What breaks my heart the most is the fact that this book truly had the potential required to make me fall head over heels in love with it – the elites were all that were needed to execute a beautiful found family trope. And there was SO much scope for more dialogue and witty banter between the elites. But do we get this? Nope. What we get are sorely underdeveloped characters (what do we ever get to know about Raffaele except a description of his clothes and mask? And with Lucent and Emma and Michel, we didn’t even get that) with absolutely zero sassy dialogue.

The next paragraph contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.

I do not know what exactly I was expecting in the end. Perhaps I was looking for something extraordinary, something that redeems how bad the rest of the story was. The actual ending was far from extraordinary, and maybe this book would have got a much higher rating from me if that end hadn’t been there.Like of all the mistakes she has done and all the people she has killed, Adelina kills Enzo instead of Teren? Are you kidding me??

Verdict

Soo. That definitely did not go as expected. The hype-o-meter vanquished the Young Elites without a second glance. Tough luck.

Oh, and that’s not all! Click HERE to read what April thinks about The Young Elites!

Have you read The Young Elites? What would you rate it on the hype-o-meter? Let me know in the comments!

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.

Book Review: Malamander by Thomas Taylor

Hello everyone, today I am going to be reviewing Malamander, a middle grade book I finished reading (or rather, listening to) just yesterday. This review will be completely spoiler-free, and you can click on the cover image below to go to Goodreads and add this wonderful (though very under-hyped) book to your TBR!

Malamander by Thomas Taylor

Synopsis

Nobody visits Eerie-on-Sea in the winter. Especially not when darkness falls and the wind howls around Maw Rocks and the wreck of the battleship Leviathan, where even now some swear they have seen the unctuous Malamander creep…

Herbert Lemon, Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, knows that returning lost things to their rightful owners is not easy – especially when the lost thing is not a thing at all, but a girl. No one knows what happened to Violet Parma’s parents twelve years ago, and when she engages Herbie to help her find them, the pair discover that their disappearance might have something to do with the legendary sea-monster, the Malamander. Eerie-on-Sea has always been a mysteriously chilling place, where strange stories seem to wash up. And it just got stranger…

My Rating [ ] (4.5 out of 5 stars)
My Review

This was my second audiobook, and my, what an experience! The audiobook was narrated by Will M. Watt, and I absolutely LOVED the narration! It really added to the story. The drama and the constant urgency with which the story was narrated was really cool. I doubt I’d have liked this book as much as I did, if I’d read the e-book or a physical copy. So if you’re looking to read Malamander, I would HIGHLY recommend you listening to it. Trust me, you’ll enjoy that rollercoaster.

The major reason why Malamander got such a good rating from me is because of Herbie, the main character. Herbie was quirky, funny and witty – this made him instantly likeable. I am not saying a main character should always be perfect, but hear this – Malamander is written in first person POV, which means, we get to know the story, the characters, the world, entirely through Herbie’s eyes. I have always believed that it is immensely important to develop a liking to the main character if you’re going to be stuck in his or head for the duration of an entire story. 4 stars out of the 4.5 I gave this book belong to you, Herbie!

If you’re anything like me (by which I mean, a scaredy cat who goes out of their way to avoid reading horror books) and got kinda misled by the synopsis, let me tell you – you have nothing to worry about! Whatever you might assume after reading the synopsis, the tone for most part was Malamander was quite light hearted, and there is hardly any horror element.

I liked the feeling of the entire town Eerie-On-Sea being a friendly (well, mostly!) community where the locals knew and treated each other like family. I also found the idea of Herbie being ‘adopted’ and accepted by the entire town positively endearing. The side characters in the book were quite well-written too.

Overall, I would definitely recommend Malamander to readers of all ages, though I suppose children especially will find this book particularly appealing.

Let’s Chat!

Have you read (or listened to) Malamander? Do you have it on your TBR? If not, did I manage to convince you to read it? Let me know in the comments!

Blog Tour: The Shadow Watch by S.A. Klopfenstein [Review + Favourite Quotes]

Hello everyone, and welcome to my stop for The Shadow Watch by S.A Klopfenstein blog tour hosted by Storytellers On Tour. You can click the banner below to view the official tour schedule and check out the tour stops made by other bloggers!

Title: The Shadow Watch

Author: S.A Klopfenstein

Published: September 2020

Series: Shadow Watch(#1)

Pages: 400 (print length)

Genre: Epic Fantasy, Young Adult

Review

Synopsis

A fierce sorceress on the run. A charismatic rebel with dangerous ambitions. Will their revolution save the realm or bring it to ruin?

Ripped from her homeland and sold for a handful of coins, seventeen year old Tori Burodai grew up a slave in a foreign empire. All her life, surrounded by injustice and cruelty, she has ached for the chance to fight back.

When her only friend’s life is threatened, a buried power awakens, catapulting Tori into a harrowing new reality. For the first time in centuries, magic has returned to the world, and Tori may finally have the opportunity to change her fate.

Desperate for answers, Tori joins forces with a charismatic rebel bent on righting the scales. Soon, she is thrust into the heart of a magic revolution. But magic is not the only power that has returned from the depths of the world. And some secrets should never be uncovered.

War is coming. But does Tori have what it takes to defy an empire?

Filled with complex characters, slow-burn romance, wild plot twists, and epic battles, the Shadow Watch series is perfect for fans of Throne of Glass and the Grishaverse.

Welcome to the breathtaking world of the Shadow Watch, where sorcerers are hunted, monsters rise out of myth, and the fate of all hangs on love and betrayal. Start the Four Book series now!

The Shadow Watch started off just like the Shadow and Bone netflix series (I am talking about the series because I haven’t read the s&b books). The main character, Tori (aka Alina) living her life until her best friend Darien (aka Mal) is about to die, and that’s when her powers awaken and she saves him (but ends up dooming both of them). Enter the chancellor (aka General Kirigan, but a worse and probably uglier version), who wields some magic himself. He (kidnaps and) dresses up the mc and treats her like a queen and talks about using their magic “together”. That is where the story begins going on a different track than s&b. Tori is tortured by the chancellor for months before getting rescued and whisked off to a place where there are others like her.

So what I liked was how we were taken straight to the point; the events of actual story started almost immediately after beginning the book. There was no beating around the bush, and this allowed for so much to happen within those 400 pages of the book.

The pacing was pretty balanced too. The story started off with a medium pace, but in the later parts it speeded up and I barely had time to process everything that was going on.

Another thing I enjoyed was the ambiguity of all the characters. There was no telling who was the good guy, who was the bad one. This made it all the more interesting, I never saw the surprises and betrayals coming.

That being said, one thing that disappointed me was how there was no likeable character at all. I mean, I understand the need for morally grey characters, but still, none of them made me want to root for them. Often, just as I began to like a character, he/she would do something horrible which would change my opinion immediately.

Final Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

(3.5 stars)

Favourite Quotes

She did not know how to say goodbye. The people she cared for usually just disappeared from her life.

Beauty meant little to him these days. It served no purpose.

“Let’s eat! I’m starving,” said Mischa. Then she looked Tori’s rail-thin body up and down. “Sorry, no I’m not. Don’t worry, Tori, you will not stay skinny long around these halls.

Don’t forget those who live as you once did. But don’t cheapen what they themselves long for and die for – comfort and freedom.”

I’ve learned to guard my mind from those dark thoughts because…they would rule me if I let them.


About The Author

S.A. Klopfenstein

S.A. Klopfenstein grew up on a steady dose of Tolkien and Star Wars. As a child, he wrote his first story about a sleepwalking killer who was executed by lethal injection. He lives in the American West with his wife and their dog, Iorek Byrnison. He can be found exploring the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, or daring the halls of the high school where he teaches English and mythology.

Have you read The Shadow Watch? Is it on your TBR? And are you excited for book 4 which is coming out soon? Let me know in the comments!

Book Scavenger by Jennifer Bertman || Mini-review, some art, and a little “book scavenger” game of my own!

Hello you guys!! Hope you’re having an amazing day so far!

Today’s post is going to be all about Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, which is a (brilliant, if I do say so myself) middle grade fantasy that I read last week. I didn’t want to write a full review on it because I have no idea what to write so I decided to just to a mash-up kind of thing, which, as the title suggests, includes a mini-review, a Book Scavenger-inspired piece of art, and a fun game at the end! Let’s get on with it, shall we?

Book Scavenger (Book Scavenger, #1)

A hidden book. A found cipher. A game begins . . . .

Twelve-year-old Emily is on the move again. Her family is relocating to San Francisco, home of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger, a game where books are hidden all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles. But Emily soon learns that Griswold has been attacked and is in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold and leads to a valuable prize. But there are others on the hunt for this book, and Emily and James must race to solve the puzzles Griswold left behind before Griswold’s attackers make them their next target. 

(If you click on the cover image above, it will take you straight to Goodreads, so you can add this book to your tbr!)

My Rating :

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The concept of a game with hidden books and clues to find them was so cool! What more could a bookworm like me possibly want? (except now I am left praying that this game existed in real life and I could play it ☹🥺)

I think this story was more plot-driven than character-driven, and though I usually favour the latter, its good to know that there are a whole bunch of amazing plots such as these out there!

I also admire the research the author has put in on different kinds of ciphers and stuff. It really showed, and I like puzzles in general, so I enjoyed reading whatever snippets of information was there about decoding different ciphers.

The character development through the book was executed wonderfully. Emily finally reassessed her priorities (being a good friend definitely beats finding an epic new game😉), and Matthew was a completely different (in a good way!) big brother than he had been at the beginning.

I would definitely recommend this book to all of you bookworms, but if you additionally like a good mystery or deciphering clues, you HAVE to read this!!

(This book is actually first in a series, but it can totally work as a standalone, so for those who avoid series in general, don’t hesitate!)


I think I have mentioned before that I am terrible at all things aesthetic, and that naturally includes drawing. But I had nothing much to do that day, and I had just finished reading Book Scavenger, so I drew a little something in my bullet journal inspired by it.

Yup, it’s our main character, Emily who has found a hidden book wedged between the branches of a tree. There is no exact scene in the book as such, I just invented one, considering that I wanted to keep my work really simple and minimalistic. And to be honest, I actually enjoyed working on this. Who knows, maybe I’ll do this more often!


Time for what you all have been anticipating!! Presenting…Book Scavenger 2.0, created by yours truly!

It is in no way similar to, or as huge and amazing as the Book Scavenger game in the book. It is just a little quiz that I made up. And don’t worry, you don’t have to literally go out and “scavenge” books, all the book scavenging is going to happen in your mind😉

Here’s how it will work :

  • Below is a link to a Google Form that I have created. When you click on the link, you will be taken to the Form.
  • I have written the names of three characters each from 8 different books. It could be main characters, side characters, anything.
  • All you have to do is rack your brain (or maybe Goodreads, though that would technically be cheating😉) and write the name of the book/series in the blanks given
  • (The books I have chosen are pretty popular to reduce the difficulty level)

All the best, book scavengers!! Click HERE to access the Form.


Have you read Book Scavenger? Is it on your TBR? Do you have any ideas for me if I want to do (very simple) journal spreads for some books?

Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff | Review

Synopsis :

First, the bad news: an ancient evil—you know, your standard consume-all-life-in-the-galaxy deal—is about to be unleashed. The good news? Squad 312 is standing by to save the day. They’ve just got to take care of a few small distractions first.

Like the clan of gremps who’d like to rearrange their favorite faces.

And the cadre of illegit GIA agents with creepy flowers where their eyes used to be, who’ll stop at nothing to get their hands on Auri.

Then there’s Kal’s long-lost sister, who’s not exactly happy to see her baby brother, and has a Syldrathi army at her back. With half the known galaxy on their tails, Squad 312 has never felt so wanted.

When they learn the Hadfield has been found, it’s time to come out of hiding. Two centuries ago, the colony ship vanished, leaving Auri as its sole survivor. Now, its black box might be what saves them. But time is short, and if Auri can’t learn to master her powers as a Trigger, the squad and all their admirers are going to be deader than the Great Ultrasaur of Abraaxis IV.

Shocking revelations, bank heists, mysterious gifts, inappropriately tight bodysuits, and an epic firefight will determine the fate of the Aurora Legion’s most unforgettable heroes—and maybe the rest of the galaxy as well.


My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The rating says it all. I have officially found a new book to obsess about, so brace yourselves for weeks of hearing about this book on my blog!

I have talked about the characters, the uniqueness of the writing style and other stuff I loved in my my review of Aurora Rising, and since that remains almost the same in Burning, I am going to go straight towards the things that I feel were a little different in Aurora Burning than its prequel, Aurora Rising.

It had a faster pace. No doubt Aurora Rising too was fast-paced, but I felt Aurora Burning was even faster, what with our squad having double the enemies than in the previous book. There were more action sequences, more climaxes and more new developments and revelations.

The atmosphere throughout the book was tenser than in Aurora Rising. There was no time for witty banter, sarcasm (or should I say ‘scarcasm’?), and all the light-hearted humour I had gotten used to after reading Aurora Rising. Can’t say I blame the crew though. All in all, some of the cheeriness from Aurora Rising was missing in this book, especially during the last parts of the novel.

Descriptions were more detailed. I don’t know if it is just me, but while reading Aurora Burning, I could literally see the exact scenes in my head, and I don’t remember that happening in Rising. Right from the character descriptions, to the settings, everything arose great imagery in my mind.

The last parts of the novel were mostly…numb. I think this was done in an attempt to make the readers feel how the remaining crew were feeling (namely Scarlett, Finian and Zila), and it worked. The last few chapters basically had no feelings of the our crew at all, even though it was first-person narration. It was almost like Zila was narrating for everyone (no offense there Zila, I know you had started ‘not feeling nothing’). Those few chapters suddenly became completely plot-driven, whereas the entire book was character-driven.

The cliffhanger was even worse😭😭 Atleast after I had finished Aurora Rising, I had the next book with me. And the Rising cliffhanger was like a pebble in comparison to the Burning cliffhanger, which was a huge rock (thrown right at my heart, shattering it). It was the worst cliffhanger in the history of cliffhangers (and I am saying this after reading each and every KOTLC book). In the middle of a firefight….ugh, don’t even get me started about it. Okay, in case it is sounding wrong, this doesn’t mean like the ending wasn’t good (I WANT to learn how to write endings like this!), it just means that the book was so good that I can’t even bear the thought of waiting months for the next one!!


Have you read Aurora Burning? What did you think about it? Any recommendations for me along similar lines? Let me know in the comments!!