Flame in the Mist: My Review

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Flame in the Mist is Renee Ahdieh’s new novel. You might know her from her duology The Wrath and the Dawn which was a retelling of the Arabian Nights (review), but this time, the story is set in Japan, and follows the daughter of a samurai… And it’s just as great.

Author: Renee Ahdieh
Genre:
 YA, Historical Fiction (bits of Romance and Fantasy)
Publication: May 2017
Rating: ★★★★☆

The story:

Flame in the Mist follows Mariko, the 17 year old daughter of a samurai, who is attacked on her way to the capital where she was supposed to marry royalty. She fakes her own death and goes in hiding, deciding to take revenge on the Black Clan, responsible for the deaths of her people. Hiding in the forest as a boy, she finds a freedom she never had as a girl, and manages to infiltrate the Black Clan, where she soon befriends the cook and attracts the wrath – and more ? – of the clan leader’s right hand, a mysterious boy nicknamed the Wolf.

My thoughts:

First of all, I wanted to mention how gorgeous this cover is. Now that I have said it, I can move on to the actual story. (But really. It’s one of the prettiest covers I have ever seen.)

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Might contain spoilers!

Now, onto the story. I have heard this book marketted as a Mulan retelling for some reason but I did not mention it in the synopsis, because I personally think it’s wrong. Mulan is set in China, while Flame in the Mist is set in Japan (and later in time I believe). Mulan is the single daughter of an old man who is too old to fight, while Mariko has healthy parents and a twin brother more than able to fight. Mulan infiltrates the army to replace her father and defend her country, while Mariko infiltrates a gang of outlaws for completely different reasons – survival, revenge, and a need to prove herself. So really, the only thing they have in common is a girl crossdressing as a boy, and honestly, that is not enough to consider this book a retelling of Mulan in my opinion. If you go into this book looking for a retelling of Mulan, you will probably be disappointed. However, that left aside, it’s an amazing book.

The second thing I wanted to address is the fact that this really gave me some Asian drama vibes which I really enjoyed. Of course, this makes sense since the story is set in Japan. But I have also watched quite a few (Korean or Japanese) dramas where the female lead is crossdressing as a male, and lives in a guys only environment (Hana Kimi, Ikemen Desu Ne…). Same with some mangas and manhwas I have read (Idol Shopping, Love in the Mask…) So I guess this rang a bit the same. And I really liked it.

I think Mariko was a really interesting character. She is a rather badass girl, who tries her best but still remains human. I also really liked the other characters such as Okami, Renmaru, Ren, Yoshi… Though I didn’t really like Mariko’s brother Kenshin.

The universe was really nice, and changed from what I usually read. I need more books like this, honestly.

The story line especially in the second part reminded me a lot of The Wrath and the Dawn/The Rose and the Dagger in the way that the main character starts to feel empathy for those she considered her enemies and infiltrated in order to get her revenge. Just like Sharzad, she realises she might have been wrong, that there might be more to the story, and that there is another enemy somewhere else. Love gets in the way. And then she realises there is also more to her family than she expected at first. And for some reason, this kind of plot really works for me, so I loved it.

I also really enjoyed the fact that we didn’t get the story only from Mariko’s point of view, but also from Kenshin’s and the Emperor, which allows the reader to know a bit more than the characters, and makes the story even more interesting.

Overall, I thought that Flame in the Mist had a pretty basic plot but still a very enjoyable one, as well as some great twists. I knew something was up, but I couldn’t really piece up what, and the ending left me with so many questions. I can’t wait for the sequel!

Let me know your thoughts in the comments if you have read this book as well!

Thoughts on the Shades of Magic Trilogy

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A Darker Shade of Magic (2015)
A Gathering of Shadows (2016)
A Conjuring of Light (2017)
Author: V.E. Schwab (Victoria Schwab)
Genre: YA, Fantasy

It also has magic and elements of historical fiction, it’s such a wonderful blend of awesomeness ♥

I read A Darker Shade of Magic last year and really enjoyed it. But then it took me forever to pick up the sequel. And now I have finally completed the trilogy, and I feel like I should talk about it on here, because those books were absolutely incredible, and you should definitely check them out. You can read my review for A Darker Shade of Magic here, and I gave all three books either four or five stars ★

The story:

Four colours. Four Londons. And only two people can travel between them. These people are called Antari, and Kell is one of them. An orphan from Red London, adopted by the Crown, and bound by friendship and brotherhood to the heir, Rhy.

Meanwhile in Grey London, Delilah Bard dreams of becoming a pirate, and soon she is swept up by a plot bigger than herself, and discovers that she might have abilities of her own.

In White London, Holland is slave to the Danes, the king and queen reigning over the realm. His powers are unlimited though, and he strives for a better world, doing anything he can to achieve his freedom, good or bad.

Locked away from the other cities, Black London is supposedly dead, but a powerful artefact might be able to change everything for everyone, magical or magicless London.

My opinion:

I absolutely love the universe that Schwab created in this series. It is so original and full of amazing twists. I feel like these books are fit for both historical fiction and fantasy lovers. I just loved everything about them. The characters are amazing, diverse, unique, and endearing. And the setting is incredible. Each book comes with new twists and adventures. And by the end of the trilogy, I really didn’t want to leave this world.

Words are not enough to describe how fantastic this trilogy is. It kept me on edge from beginning to end. And I loved it. The world building is absolutely incredible. And it is so well written. I liked each book even more than the previous one.

The characters are all so different and incredible. They are all complex, and cleverly written. It’s impossible to pick a favourite. Every volume managed to bring its lot of surprises and new amazing characters and twists. Amazing doesn’t even begin to sum it up.

I really liked Kell, obviously. He has powers that none can understand, but he also has his own wounds, and faults. He feels to human and relatable. He is fierce and needs to be protected.

And then there’s Lila of course. From thief to pirate, this girl has done everything. She can lie as well as she can breathe. She is immensely strong, morally and physically. She also has her faults, and for that, I will always admire her. She is the amazing person I wish I could be.

Then there’s Rhy, the prince, who struggles with his magic and wants to be stronger. At any cost apparently, and it does definitely cost him. But he also knows how to value his mistakes, and the people he cares for. What I like the most about him is his gift for languages, because it’s always something I admire.

Holland, the other Antari, appears at first to be a villain sort of character, but the more we read, the more we learn. And he is so much more than that. He is a very complex character, who was built on pain. It is so interesting to read about him. Even if he’s really not my favourite, I sometimes couldn’t help but feel bad for him.

And one more character I wanted to mention, of course, is Alucard, though he is only introduced in the second book. He is another very complex characters, and mysterious as well. A powerful magician, though not an Antari. A pirate and a noble man, with an undying love for the heir to the throne.

Everything about these books and these characters is amazing. The romances are well played, and don’t overshadow the plot itself. Shades of Magic is a tale of magic, obviously, of adventure, and of power games. It has a bit of everything, and what else can I say, it’s fantastic!

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I honestly don’t know what else to say about these books. I really loved them, as you probably got by now, and I felt that they deserved their place on my blog so here we go. Have you read them? If so what did you think?

I read book one and three on kindle, and listened to the audiobook for book two, which was also an amazing experience. I’m actually considering getting the physical copies because they are so gorgeous, both the American and the British edition!

Victoria Schwab is amazing, and I want to read more of her books. Which are your favourites? I also read Vicious which was incredible, and the next on my list is This Savage Song!

Lambs Can Always Become Lions: My Review

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When I saw that there was a retelling of Robin Hood with Robin Hood actually being a woman, and a F/F romance, I knew I had to pick it up. I saw the blurb, and suddenly I realised it was all I had been waiting for. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Title: Lambs Can Always Become Lions
Author: Charlotte Anne Hamilton
Genre: YA, Retelling, Romance
Publication: May 2017
My rating: ★★★★✩

The story:

Robin Hood – formerly known as Lady Loxley – lives in the woods with her companions, robbing rich carriages and dividing the money between the people who need it. They are outlaws, hoping for a better world, waiting for the return of King Richard, and running from the Sheriff of Nottingham.

With the help of her lover Lady Marian Fitzwalker, Robin hears word of an important shipment, and starts planning for an ambush, but gathering more information might endanger everyone she cares about, including Marian herself, who really wants to help.

My opinion:

I can’t even begin to tell you how amazed I was at the diversity in this book. First we get a F/F romance at the center of the story. But quickly we find out more about Robin’s friends, and discover that Will Scarlet is non-binary (which has officially become a headcanon, I will never see them as anything else from now on) and that one of the other members of the group is a Muslim girl called Edda who basically embushes rich people while wearing a hijab, and if that’s not awesome then I don’t know what is. It is also strongly implied that Little John is asexual. This book was so refreshing. I was literally squealing half the time while reading it. I need more books like this.

Lambs Can Always Become Lions follows the main lines of Robin’s Hood story as we know it, with Robin as an excellent archer, the merry gang living in the woods, the rivalry with the Sheriff of Nottingham, and of course, the romance with Lady Marian. I’m a huge fan of retellings, but I had never read a Robin Hood retelling before, though I really love the story. The closest that came to it was my binge watching Once Upon A Time two years ago. So if you have any great Robin Hood retelling to recommed, feel free to leave them in the comments, I am up for that!

I don’t know what else to say. I guess my only regret is that it was too short (96 pages). A sequel is coming in 2018 I believe, and I can’t wait to read it. I really hope you check out this book, and are as excited by the premise as I was. Please let me know your thoughts if you have read it, I would love to talk about it!

Ps: Follow the author on Twitter!

Same Love: My Review

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I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. This doesn’t affect my thoughts in any way.

Title: Same Love
Author: Tony Correia
Release: August 10th
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
My rating: ★★✩✩✩

Trigger Warning:

I honestly would like to put trigger warnings for homophobia, racism and slut shaming because some elements made me really uncomfortable, and if this is something that triggers you, then you may want to avoid it. Oh and ableism too. This book has a gay main character, but so many people were against it and really homophobic it really pained me. If you’re looking for a gay positive book, you might want to read something else (even if the ending was decently positive).

The story:

Adam’s very religious parents are scocked and ashamed to find out that their son is gay and send him to a Christian camp for the summer, using his university savings. There, he makes new friends and tries to find an equilibrium for his religion and his sexuality. And little by little, he falls in love with one of his bunkmates… That’s the basic plot of the story, which also flirts with issues such as depression and slit shaming.

My opinion:

I would honestly really like to have someone else’s opinion on this book. So many things made me really uncomfortable, and I would love to discuss it, to see if I’m the only one (like, am I becoming really paranoid and see hate everywhere). I suppose it was made at least to some extent to reflect “real life”. I know this definitely happens to some teens. But is it really necessary to reflect such hate in fiction? This is open to discussion. I really want to know. It’s a bit hard for me to write this review because I have some really conflicted about this book.

What I did find interesting is that we got to see characters who are both Christians and gay, and it’s not something we get often in YA. However, I feel like it could have been dealt with in a better way. There is this post going around tumblr, where someone shows (by quoting the Bible) that being a loving person, and accepting people is the most important thing in religion. This is something I would love to see in a book, and I wish we’d had more of that in here. Sadly, I also know this is also often how things are in the non fictional world (and it’s also why I’m having so much trouble with religion, but it’s a complete other topic). What I want to say here, is that this book was heartbreaking in many way when it comes to family, and contained a lot of negativity, and it was, in my opinion, a pity.

I also had issues with slut shaming and racism in this book, and maybe it’s just made in a way to show that some people think like that and it’s bad and it’s find because our main character doesn’t. But really. It made me jump in my seat to see how Rhonda and Paul were treated (by Randall for example). And by the way, Paul is almost all the time described as Asian, but that’s not enough information. I believe he is Korean? I think that’s mentioned at some point. But again, you can’t just give minimalistic characteristic like that to your love interest. I think this should have been explored a bit more – once again, a pity.

And don’t get me started on the ableism. First we get Randall shaming Martin for being diabetic. And then the entire camp is shaming him for his mental illness – which was another issue overlooked by the book.

I want to believe this book was full of good intentions, and just badly executed. There were even some cute parts I enjoyed, but it’s overshadowed by all the parts that disturbed me.

I did like the ending though. But in the end, I don’t know what message I’m supposed to get from this book. Sure, our main character gets to accept himself more in a way. But most issues aren’t even solved in the end. The book isn’t even that long and I feel like a lot of elements could have been explored in a better way.

I really wanted to like this book, but so many things clicked wrong, I just couldn’t. (And on an afterthought, I checked other reviews on Goodreads and people seem to overall agree with me…) So I guess that’s it. Please let me know your thoughts if you have read this book as well. Thanks for reading this article, and I hope you have a wonderful day!

Love Is Love: My Review

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I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. This doesn’t affect my thoughts in any way.

Title: Love Is Love
Author: Mette Bach
Release: August 10th
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
My rating: 3,5 stars ★

The story:

Emmy is a high school student dealing with body issues as well as anxiety. After attempting and failing a relationship with a popular guy in school, she decides in agreement with her mother to leave Winnipeg, and start a new life with her uncle and aunt in Vancouver.

After years spending away from Vancouver, her father’s hometown – one reason among many others being the over perfectness of her cousin Paige – she is back and meets again with Paige’s trans friend Jude. Emmy is instantly attracted to him, even if both her cousin and mother warn her that he is trouble.

But Emmy finds herself spending more and more time at the café where Jude works and presents poetry and slam. And slowly, the wto of them grow closer.

Warning:

I found that this book inluded a lot of body negativity and it made me sometimes really uncomfortable. It does end on a positive message, but if it is something that triggers you, you may want to stay away from it.

There are also some passages where Jude is misgendered, so again, if it’s something that triggers you, you might want to stay away. It also made me uncomfortable. I get that there are (in real life) some rude people who refuse to gender trans people correctly. But is it necessary to include something harmful like this in a book which is supposed to have a positive message? (By the way, this is an open question, if you have an answer for that, I’m interested.)

My opinion:

First of all, I picked up this book because I absolutely loved the concept. It is unique, and unlike anything I have read before. An overweight protagonist and a trans love interest are sadly not common in literature, though they have so much potential. And I do feel, however, that this could have been exploited a bit (a lot?) further. The book is roughly 180 pages, but it could have been so much more. It was still great though, and had many passages I greatly enjoyed. I also really enjoyed Emmy’s character development through the book, and could really relate to her anxiety and lack of self-confidence, however I did find that it sometimes became a little bit unhealthy and harmful to read. She had lots of issues with her bodies which I can understand, but she was also very self-deprecating. And yes, it felt very realistic. But some body positivity would have been nice.

Another thing I wanted to mention is that I find the cover actually quite inaccurate, so don’t be fooled by it. For some reason it doesn’t seem to mach any of the protagonists?

I also appreciated the fact that the book was set in Canada. When it is not Fantasy or Dystopia, most of the YA (and fiction in general) I read is set in the US, or sometimes in the UK (which usually comes off as a nice surprise) so it was definitely interesting to see something playing somewhere else, even if the location didn’t play such a big part in the story.

The relationship of both characters to art and poetry was a great surprise, and I really enjoyed watching Emmy learning more about her dad. Her relationship with her mom was quite messed up, but seeing this bond with her dad – even if he has passed away already at the time of the story – was beautiful to read. And through writing of all things, of course I loved it.

I really like the fact that Jude and Emmy found each other through poetry, and got to realise they had a lot in common, and really understood each other more than everyone else did. But it felt that it all happened to fast. And I couldn’t help but think in the back of my mind that yes, it’s great to find love, but love doesn’t solve everything. Maybe I’m misreading it, but it seemed all too easy sometimes.

That being said, this book has overall a very positive message of accepting others as they are, and I couldn’t help but swoon at the end. I just wish it had been longer, and more deeply explored.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this book or my review in the comments, and have a nice day!

When Dimple Met Rishi: My Review

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When Dimple Met Rishi was one of my most anticipated releases for this year, and oh boy, I wasn’t disappointed! It was also our book of the month on the Booktube Book Club, feel free to join us for the discussion, all the information is here.

And first of all, how adorable is that cover?? ♥

Author: Sandhya Menon
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
Publication: May 30th 2017
My rating: ★★★★★

The story:

Dimple Shah just graduated high school, and has a passion for coding. She is getting ready to attend Stanford in the fall, and wants to attend a special coding course during the summer. Except her mom’s biggest ambition seems to be to see her wearing makeup and find the Ideal Indian Husband.

Rishi Patel has been raised in a traditional Indian family, though he was born and raised in the US, and he deeply respects his parents wishes. He loves drawing comics, but agrees with his father that it will not provide him with a career. He is ready for his parents to set up a perfect wedding for him.

The Shah and the Patel have always thought their kids could get married, and the summer coding programm at Stanford university seems like the perfect opportunity for them to meet up and set things in process. Except personalities are about to clash, and who knows what’s about to happen…

My opinion:

This was such a beautiful, delicate and refreshing romance story. I have to say, I have a sweet tooth for romance, but it’s not always that I love a book this much. This book is bright and moving, and would make a perfect summer read: I definitely recommend you check it out!

Dimple is such a fierce character, she knows what she wants, but we also see her evolving, getting to take more things into account through the novel, and it was very interesting. To some extent, this can be a coming of age story, where she is right between high school and college. This is such an important time in one’s life, and it was a really great idea to set the book at this point in her life. Dimple is passionate about what she likes – coding – and wants to be the best. She can’t be bothered with makeup, and doesn’t understand her mom’s persistance with finding the Ideal Indian Husband.

So obviously, when she meets Rishi, who thinks an arranged marriage is the best possible plan, and wants to follow his parents’ will, things clash. However, as they get to know each other, they discover they may have more in common than they expected at first.

I felt like their relationship was really well built. They form a very strong friendship, and support each other – even if they also hide things from one another. It just made the book all the more realistic. I can’t help but think that the word “delicate” is a perfect word to describe this book. It was such an amazing and beautiful read from beginning to end.

Let’s talk a bit more about the other characters, shall we?

I also really liked Celia’s character, who is Dimple’s friend and roommate. She struggles with friendship and her desire to be popular and accepted. I thought her character was really realistic and beautiful. She was really a great addition to the story.

And then there’s Ashish, Rishi’s brother, who is his polar opposite, and keeps calling him out about everything he likes, stands for, or wants to do. The relationship between both brothers is a difficult one at first, but we see that evolving through the book, as they both grow up and get to understand each other more. And I loved it.

One more character I wanted to discuss is Dimple’s mom. She is a talkative, lively mom, who wants nothing more than to have her daughter find the perfect husband. She doesn’t understand why her daughter can’t bother to be more feminine. Dimple and her mom argue a lot, and can’t seem to understand each other at all. But through the book, obviously, we see things evolve, and it was really great and moving to see two different women’s point of view, and the evolving relationship between a mother and a daughter.

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I feel that there is so much more to discuss about this book, but I don’t really know how. It left me with a lot of feelings, and it was very hard to put it down. I just don’t know how to translate that into words. So I’m just going to say that: I loved this book.

Overall, this is a great novel with great character developments coming from basically all the characters, which is amazing. It is a beautiful, relatable, swoon-worthy romance with unique characters. Your perfect summer read. I definitely recommend you check it out!

Let me know your thoughts if you have read this book, and I hope you enjoyed this review! Let me know also if you feel there are other things I should have addressed in this article. And have a wonderful day ♥

Thoughts On The Queen Of The Tearling Trilogy

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Through the past few months, I have been listening to the audiobooks for The Queen of the Tearling trilogy, and I absolutely loved them. I have been seeing those books on Instagram every since I started by bookstagram account more than two years ago, but I didn’t really know what they were about. Now I know, and I think you should read them too!

The Queen of the Tearling (2014)
The Invasion of the Tearling (2015)
The Fate of the Tearling (2016)
Author: Erika Johansen
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Dystopia
My Rating: ★★★★✩

FOR OLDER READERS

Trigger warning: rape, abuse

Blurb:

Kelsea Raleigh has been raised away from New London, though she is heiress to the throne of the Tearling. On her nineteenth birthday, the Queen’s Guard comes to get her and get her throne back, a throne which has been occupied by her uncle ever since her mother, queen Elyssa, died when Kelsea was only one.

But this turns out harder than Kelsea could possibly imagine, considering some measures her mother took before her assassination, and soon, a war is on the way both inside and outside of the kingdom.

With the help of her sapphire necklace, which seems to have more power than she could ever imagine, her faithful guards and visions of the past and how her ancestors created the Tearling, will Kelsea be able to save everything and everyone she cares about?

My opinion:

The Queen of the Tearling was an incredible and unique trilogy. I absolutely loved it and definitely recommend it to everyone. It is a mix between fantasy and dystopia, set in some kind of magical, parallel universe, in an undated future.

The characters were really endearing, and I was really sad to part with them in the end. The fact that Kelsea is a hardcore bookworm only made me like the book even more. I also loved Pen and the Mace. And the villain, the Read Queen, was a really fascinating character as well. The story was well rounded from beginning to end, and full of crazy plot twists. Both the present and the fact were fascinating, and the world building is really well done.

My only regret is that it took me quite some time to get into the story at first, and it was sometimes a bit slow. But overall, I really loved it.

What I appreciated the most was probably how smart it was. I think it is an excellent critic of our society. It really made me think a lot. Even if it is set in a fantastic kingdom, it seems to be a very accurate, realistic representation of the struggles of politics and human kind. It also had a very conflicted view on religion which is someting I found in a way very relatable to my own relationship to religion in a real world. This book managed to depict a very accurate view on a lot of things, including positive and negative points, which I really loved. It’s a very deep reflection on what is good, and what is bad, and what if there’s no good and evil, and everything is more or less grey. I felt so deeply for all these characters, and the hard decisions they had to make.

The passages set in the past actually seem to be a very realistic depiction of what our future could be. It’s very critic, and trying to make the reader think, and I loved it.

I honestly think this trilogy is a masterpiece. It may at first feel like a random dystopia, but it is so much more. It is unique, endearing and impossible to put down.

Honestly, if you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for?

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