Book Tags · Uncategorized

Mid-Year Freak Out Book Tag- 2020 Edition!

Hello booksicles!

Today, I bring you the Mid-Year Freakout Tag where I review my reading in the first half of the year. I’m not sure who started the tag but it’s very popular with book bloggers and booktubers alike! I didn’t do it last year but it looks fun and I was tagged by Azrah from Az You Read so I decided to give it a go!

Best book(s) you’ve read so far in 2020

The Empire of Gold by S. A. Chakraborty: This is the last book of the Daevabad trilogy and it truly was a beautiful conclusion to the series that filled me up with every emotion imaginable.

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles: This book comes out in August but I was lucky enough to read a review copy of it and trust me when I say that this book is fabulous! It is inspired by The Phantom of the Opera and full of glitz, magic and drama- I loved it!

Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2020

The Kingdom of Copper by S. A. Chakraborty: This is the second book of the Daevabad trilogy and I’d say it’s not just the best sequel I’ve read in 2020 but the best sequel I’ve read EVER!

New release(s) you haven’t read but want to

  • The Silence of Bones by June Hur
  • Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto
  • A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
  • Parachutes by Kelly Yang

Most anticipated release(s) for the second half of the year

  • A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab
  • The Burning God by R. F. Kuang
  • These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong (I have a review copy of this one which I’m really excited to read)

Biggest disappointment

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace: This was a really anticipated read but it fell so flat for me. I didn’t find it interesting at all and couldn’t connect to the characters.

Biggest surprise

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas: I had no idea what to expect from this book but I actually quite liked it?! It was a fun read although it was far longer than necessary.

Favorite new to me author(s)

  • Janella Angeles
  • Intisar Khanani
  • Zoraida Córdova

Newest fictional crush

Uh I don’t have one actually.

New favorite character(s)

  • Nahri from the Daevabad trilogy: I admire Nahri and how smart and unyielding she is in extremely trying situations. She is also so kind and she always chooses what is right for others over what would benefit her.
  • Alizayd al Qahtani from the Daevabad trilogy: He really grows over the trilogy and has a tendency to always say the wrong thing but he’s also very sincere and has the best intentions.
  • Kallia from Where Dreams Descend: Kallia is spectacular in every way. I love her determination and flair for the dramatic!

A book that made you cry

Not a single book made me cry this year, in general it is very rare that books make me cry at all even though I am an emotional person. When I feel sad about something in a book I don’t think it manifests as tears but my heart physically hurts. That being said, the book that was closest to making me cry was The Empire of Gold.

A book that made you happy

Once Upon An Eid is an anthology full of short stories about celebrating Eid by Muslim authors and when I read in in Ramadan this year it filled me with joy!

Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year

I bought a hardcover of An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir and it’s stunning I love it!

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Well there are quite a lot of books I couldn’t mention them all! Some review copies I need to read are:

  • These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
  • The Once and Future Witches.by Alix E. Harrow
  • Crowning Soul by Sahira Javaid

And here are some other books I hope to read during 2020:

  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
  • The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
  • Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
  • Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K. S. Villoso
  • Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi

So that’s the tag! I found some new favourites in the first half of 2020 and I hope to read some more amazing books during the rest of the year too.

I tag Zainab @ Em’s Bookish Musings and anyone else who wants to give this tag a try.

What has your favourite book of 2020 so far been? Let me know in the comments!

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Black Lives Matter |Free Palestine | Junk Terror Bill

Reviews · Uncategorized

Review: The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water

Thank you to Tor.com for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book: The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water

Author: Zen Cho

Year Published: 2020

  • Plot: 3.5/5
  • Characters: 4/5
  • Writing: 3/5
  • Overall: 3.5/5

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water was a novella pitched as a found family wuxia fantasy. It was a fun read with a fair bit of humour but it also had the themes of war, religion and identity woven in. 

The book really focused on the found family trope and I really liked the ragtag group of bandits and the strong bonds between them. I loved Tet Sang and Guet Imm so much and the way their relationship developed was perfect in every way. However, I couldn’t connect with any other characters apart from them and I wish the side characters got more ‘screen time’ too.

Although the book is described as wuxia there was definitely less martial arts action and more focus on world building, the dynamics between the characters, their emotions and how they were dealing with past traumas. Personally, I liked that about the novella but if you’re looking for an action-packed book this might not be for you.

I found the writing style quite hard to follow, some of the phrasing felt off to me and I had to go back and reread bits of it to understand what was happening. However, I really liked the dialogue and banter between the characters- quite a few scenes made me laugh. Even though it was a novella it packed in a lot of world building but in an interesting way that gradually revealed more about the world, the war, the customs and the religious beliefs.

I would definitely recommend this book as it’s a short, fun but also meaningful read however I do wish some aspects of characterization and plot had a bit more depth.

Twitter Goodreads


Sereadipity supports Black Lives Matter and stands against racism and discrimination in all its forms. I intend to work harder to uplift Black voices and books by Black authors.

This carrd is constantly being updated with petitions, ways to donate, resources to educate ourselves and more. This thread by Myonna @itsmyoreads on Twitter has a list of videos by Black booktubers talking about Black Lives Matter, allyship and being Black in the book community that I’d recommend to watch and subscribe to their channels as well.

Reviews · Uncategorized

The Black Cat: Review of The Court of Miracles

Thank you to the author, Kester Grant, for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book: The Court of Miracles

Author: Kester Grant

Year Published: 2020

  • Plot: 3/5
  • Characters: 3/5
  • Writing: 3/5
  • Overall: 3/5

The Court of Miracles was a novel inspired by Les Misérables, set in an alternate, early 1800s Paris where the French Revolution had failed. There was a lot that I liked and enjoyed about the book but I also felt a lack of connection to the characters and the plot which lessened the overall impact for me.

The story followed Nina Thénardier for many years of her life, with a few time skips, who was a member of the Thieves’ Guild of The Court of Miracles constantly trying to protect those she loved. The Court of Miracles was basically a criminal underworld consisting of people cast out from and struggling in society, seeking the safety, protection and belonging they couldn’t find anywhere else. It was divided into nine guilds with different specialties for example The Guild of Thieves, The Guild of Smugglers, The Guild of Assassins, etc. Things like race, religion and even family ties made no difference in the Miracle Court, Nina herself was French-Algerian and many side characters were POC.

Nina was clever, agile and decisive, the best thief of her guild and known as ‘The Black Cat’. She often got herself into and out of dangerous situations and came up with complex plots to achieve her goals. There was no boundary, no obstacle she would overcome to protect and save her loved ones. I admired her survival instinct and bravery but there was something missing and I couldn’t bring myself to care. I think it’s because I found the writing style quite detached and sometimes even disjointed and I struggled to understand her feelings, motivations and thought processes. However, I did find her relationship with Ettie (her adopted sister) really sweet.

The mysterious Miracle Court with its rules, conflicts and lore was well fleshed out and I also liked how the book conveyed the grim depths of the struggles of the poor and contrasted it to the opulent indifference of the rich. The plot had multiple time skips and minimal explanation of what was happening in favour of explaining the world and history that made it very hard to follow and connect with, so much so that even the major plot twists at the end had little to no effect on me. However, I had no prior knowledge of Les Misérables so maybe if I did it would have helped, I’m not sure.

Overall, I liked The Court of Miracles but while it had the makings of a new favourite it fell short for me and I’m still not sure if I’ll want to read the sequel, however, if it sounds like an interesting read to you I’d still reccomend you to give it a try.

Twitter Goodreads


Sereadipity supports Black Lives Matter and stands against racism and discrimination in all its forms. I intend to work harder to uplift Black voices and books by Black authors.

This carrd is constantly being updated with petitions, ways to donate, resources to educate ourselves and more. This thread by Myonna @itsmyoreads on Twitter has a list of videos by Black booktubers talking about Black Lives Matter, allyship and being Black in the book community that I’d recommend to watch and subscribe to their channels as well.

 

Interviews · Uncategorized

Sereadipity Interviews… Kathryn Purdie!

Hello my booksicles!

I’m so excited to share the interview I did with Kathryn Purdie a while back about her latest novel, Bone Crier’s Moon, which came out earlier in the year. I’m really appreciate the time she took to answer my questions!

Here’s a bit about the book:

Bone ​Criers have a sacred duty. They alone can keep the dead from preying on the living. But their power to ferry the spirits of the dead into goddess Elara’s Night Heavens or Tyrus’s Underworld comes from sacrifice. The gods demand a promise of dedication. And that promise comes at the cost of the Bone Criers’ one true love.

Ailesse has been prepared since birth to become the matriarch of the Bone Criers, a mysterious famille of women who use strengths drawn from animal bones to ferry dead souls. But first she must complete her rite of passage and kill the boy she’s also destined to love.

Bastien’s father was slain by a Bone Crier and he’s been seeking revenge ever since. Yet when he finally captures one, his vengeance will have to wait. Ailesse’s ritual has begun and now their fates are entwined—in life and in death.

Sabine has never had the stomach for the Bone Criers’ work. But when her best friend Ailesse is taken captive, Sabine will do whatever it takes to save her, even if it means defying their traditions—and their matriarch—to break the bond between Ailesse and Bastien. Before they all die.

Interview:

In the book, women called Bone Criers enhanced their abilities through bone graces- magic obtained from animal bones. What inspired this concept?

The spark of my book idea came from “Les Dames Blanches” in French folklore, women in white who kill men who refuse to dance with them on bridges. But the bone magic was my own creation. I wanted the Bone Criers’ power to come from the gods. They receive their life force from the moon goddess, but their bone magic is a darker magic that comes from animal blood rituals made to the god of the Underworld. It’s supposed to be something the reader morally questions, and the character Sabine does that as well. I’m not sure where the idea of bone magic came from originally. It was just part of my brainstorming all possibilities for magic when I first conceived this book idea.

Much of the story takes place in vast catacombs sprawling below the ground. Were they inspired by a real place?

The catacombs in the story were inspired by the catacombs below Paris. My fascination from them started when I watched a movie adaptation of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA years ago. I have a good friend who has toured illegal sections of the Paris catacombs twice, and I consulted her extensively to try to portray them accurately.

Describe the three main characters- Sabine, Ailesse and Bastien- in three haikus!

Ailesse:
Heir of her famille,
a girl with tiger-shark strength
dares to love boldly.
Bastien:
Best thief of Dovré,
a boy who lived for revenge
finds love deadly sweet.
Sabine:
Loyal, kind, and wise,
a gentle friend discovers
her own inner strength.

The phases of the moon were very important to the Bone Criers- particularly the full moon and new moon. Why did you give the moon such significance?

A natural by-product for me of writing a story about a matriarchal society was featuring the moon. Most cultures’ moon deities are female, and the moon often carries a female connotation and is connected with feminine power. The new moon is the night the Bone Crier’s have been restrained to ferry on for generations, but they were meant to ferry on the full moon, too, when their goddess’s strength is at its full power. That’s all I can say without spoiling too much, but you’ll see how this idea comes into play in the book if you read it carefully. 🙂

How do you create your characters? Do they walk into your mind fully formed or do you build them up gradually? How do you decide on names?

I let a book idea percolate for a while, and then the main characters tend to land in my head. I didn’t want BONE CRIER’S MOON to just be about a star-crossed romance between Ailesse and Bastien, and so I quickly formed the character of Sabine. Female friendship, or “sisterhood,” is really at the core of this story for me. Sabine is also an important character in that she is the one Bone Crier who questions their way of life. She really balances out the story and gives the reader constant eyes on the villain, as well.

I spend a lot of time thinking about names. They’re a critical part in developing each character for me. It takes me several days to find the perfect name for each one. In BONE CRIER’S MOON, most of the names are French, and if they’re not French, they’re very ancient, like “Odiva.” For me, that was an important way to give the story a mythological feel. I make sure that the character’s name meaning also goes hand-in-hand with who they are. For example, “Ailesse” means “supernatural victory.”

If you had to choose one Bone Crier’s Moon character to swap places with for a day, who would you pick and why?

I would choose to be Sabine. Her graces aren’t as overwhelming as Ailesse’s–I really wouldn’t like to have a sixth sense pricking at me all the time–and Sabine is also with Odiva often. I think Odiva is fascinating, and I’d love to study her for a day.

Are there any ideas or research that you really wanted to include in the book but couldn’t make fit?

I researched many animals and their awesome abilities extensively. Several animals I didn’t include in the book because they either don’t have bones (I’m looking at you, amazing sea creatures like jellyfish) or they wouldn’t live in a geographical area like southern France (the region that inspired my world).

Can you give us any hints as to what to expect from the sequel to Bone Crier’s Moon?

In the sequel, BONE CRIER’S DAWN, you’ll get to know a new character really well, one of the Bone Criers will obtain two new grace bones, and another one will travel to a very exciting and dangerous supernatural place. You’ll also come to understand the two major gods in the story better, their motives, more.

About the author:

Kathryn is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the BURNING GLASS series. Her love of storytelling began as a young girl when her dad told her about someone named Boo Radley while they listened to the film score of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Kathryn is a trained classical actress who studied at the Oxford School of Drama. She also writes songs on her guitar for each of her stories and shares them on her website. Kathryn lives in the Rocky Mountains with her husband and three children.

Reviews · Uncategorized

Stolen Memories, Stolen Lives: Review of Incendiary

Thank you to Hodderscape for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I interviewed Zoraida Córdova for the Incendiary blog tour- read it here!

Book: Incendiary

Author: Zoraida Córdova

Year Published: 2020

  • Plot: 4.5/5
  • Characters: 4.5/5
  • Writing: 4.5/5
  • Overall: 4.5/5

Incendiary was an action-packed fantasy set in a world inspired by 15th century Spain, reimagining the Inquisition. While it had many of the tropes that are common in YA fantasy such as a main character with rare/ special powers it didn’t feel boring or unoriginal to me and managed to make those common tropes exciting.

One of my favourite aspects of the book was the magic system. It was heavily based on the senses and the mind which is not something I see often (most magic systems I’ve seen are more physical or elemental). In the book, the kingdom of Puerto Leones conquered neighbouring Memoria and sought to wipe out its magically gifted people, the Moria. They had magical abilities of four types: Robári (can take people’s memories), Persuári (can influence and bring people’s emotions to life), Ventári (can tell if someone is lying) and Illusionári (capable of conjuring illusions). Moria with no magic were called Olvidados

Moria were feared, hunted, persecuted and killed by the crown of Puerto Leones and the Robári were the most feared of them all. Which brings us to our main character, Renata Convida, a Robári who was kidnapped by the King’s Justice as a child and was used to steal memories from royal enemies. Memories that contained information leading to the deaths of thousands of Moria. However, the Moria rebels (called the Whispers) rescued her and let her join their ranks but they never let her have their trust. When Dez, the commander of her unit and the only person who truly trusted and cared about Ren, was captured, Ren had to go under cover and complete his mission no matter the cost.

Ren’s character development was amazing and I really felt sorry for her. Her mind was filled with so many stolen memories yet she couldn’t remember so many of her own. Her people would never forget her actions that caused so much harm and pain and she lived with the burden of that guilt even though her actions were the result of manipulation as a child. Her relationship with the King’s Justice was so twisted- how could she hate him when he was good to her? How could she love him when he made her do monstrous deeds she didn’t understand at the time? This conflict inside her led to her need to prove she was capable and worthy of trust and every time she failed the pain deepened

I did predict the majority of the plot twists but they were still quite thrilling and there were still a couple of shocking twists I didn’t see coming. Incendiary was a gripping fantasy full of espionage and betrayal that you don’t want to miss.

Twitter Goodreads


Sereadipity supports Black Lives Matter and stands against racism and discrimination in all its forms. I intend to work harder to uplift Black voices and books by Black authors.

This carrd is constantly being updated with petitions, ways to donate, resources to educate ourselves and more. This thread by Myonna @itsmyoreads on Twitter has a list of videos by Black booktubers talking about Black Lives Matter, allyship and being Black in the book community that I’d recommend to watch and subscribe to their channels as well.

Reviews · Uncategorized

The Golden Dragon: Review of Don’t Call the Wolf

Thank you to HarperTeen for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book: Don’t Call the Wolf

Author: Aleksandra Ross

Year Published: 2020

  • Plot: 3/5
  • Characters: 3.5/5
  • Writing: 4/5
  • Overall: 3/5

Don’t Call the Wolf was a story inspired by Polish mythology with all the wisp-like trappings of a fairy tale. The ambiance of the monster-ridden forest and the themes of fate, loyalty and kindness drew me in and I was enjoying it until the last few chapters where I felt let down by an ending that was too rushed and didn’t make that much sense.

Ren was the human-lynx shifter queen of her forest, fighting a losing battle against the monsters and the Golden Dragon plaguing her lands. She was loved by the animals she presided over and reviled by the humans in the nearby village as a monster. The help she needed came in the form of a dragon slayer called Lukasz– the last of the Wolf-Lords. Seventeen years ago his family had fled their home as the Golden Dragon descended upon it and ever since, one by one, his brothers returned in an attempt to slay it only to be never seen again.

I liked the fairy tale structure of the book with the regular flashbacks to Lukasz’s brothers and the story behind each one’s disappearance. It created an ominous sense of fate and inevitability that constantly made me wonder if their quest was futile as so many had failed before them which kept me on edge. I also loved the aspects from Slavic folklore such as the strzygi, nawia and even Baba Yaga.

My main issue was that the ending of the book felt so contrived and rushed in what was attempt to surprise the reader and invert the usual tropes but just didn’t make any sense and disappointed me.

I would recommend Don’t Call the Wolf to anyone who loves stories inspired by fairy tales and folklore or books that explore themes such as what makes a person a monster and if people can be born evil or if they are made but be warned that the ending may disappoint.

Twitter Goodreads

Sereadipity supports Black Lives Matter and stands against racism and discrimination in all its forms. I intend to work harder to uplift Black voices and books by Black authors.

This carrd is constantly being updated with petitions, ways to donate, resources to educate ourselves and more. This thread by Myonna @itsmyoreads on Twitter has a list of videos by Black booktubers talking about Black Lives Matter, allyship and being Black in the book community that I’d recommend to watch and subscribe to their channels as well.

 

 

Reviews · Uncategorized

Review: Once Upon an Eid

Thank you to Amulet Books for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

  • Book: Once Upon an Eid
  • Editors: S. K. Ali and Aisha Saeed
  • Year Published: 2020
  • Overall rating: 4.5 stars

Once Upon an Eid was a heart warming and uplifting anthology all about the indescribable joy of Eid and its power to bring people together. It was full of wholesome, own-voices Muslim representation and it’s a brilliant read for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. As a Muslim, I felt like a saw a small piece of myself in every story and I think many others will feel the same. I loved how Muslims with so many different cultures and Eid traditions were represented. Reading this anthology during Ramadan made the experience even better, filling me up with fuzzy, warm joy!

(1) Perfect by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, 4 stars: A twelve-year-old Black American hijabinista named Hawa was nervous about spending Eid-ul-Fitr with her father’s side of the family from Guinea in New York. Despite what her father thought, she didn’t feel like the ‘perfect Mandinka girl’ at all. It was about accepting all the different parts of herself and becoming closer to family. I could really sympathise with how awkward it can be to navigate language barriers and meet unfamiliar extended family.

(2) Yusuf and the Great Big Brownie Mistake by Aisha Saeed, 4 stars: Yusuf was distraught when his favourite Eid tradition of making brownies went wrong and his sister decided she had grown out of it. This one was about the importance of tradition, but also how it can change. About how doing things with family can make them better.

(3) Kareem Means Generous by Asmaa Hussein, 4.5 stars: Generosity is a core value that Islam teaches and, as the title suggests, this story was about a boy called Kareem learning about the importance of generosity and kindness by helping out a friend. He realised that not every one was as lucky as him and giving brought him more happiness than keeping everything to himself.

“Anytime you share something you love, it comes right back to you like a boomerang. You never lose it.”

(4) Don’ut Break Tradition by S. K. Ali, 4.5 stars: For Nadia, this Eid didn’t feel special because her mum was ill. This story was all about how Nadia was determined to make Eid special for her mother and the rest of her family. It was about the power of tradition and the magnitude small gestures can have. I loved how every member of the family was represented by a donut and the hopeful message the story had which really resonated with me.

(5) Just Like Chest Armor by Candice Montgomery, 4 stars: Eleven-year-old Leila decided that she was ready to wear hijab, however, her parents weren’t so sure. She took her time with it learning how to wear it and feel comfortable with it before wearing it outside. She decided that she didn’t mind how other people reacted to her hijab because it was how she wanted to express her faith and it felt right for her. I liked how this story went against the idea that some people have that Muslims are ‘forced’ to wear hijab and it instead showed the pride, strength and connection that wearing hijab can bring. I also loved this story’s emphasis on colour.

(6) Gifts by Rukhsana Khan, 4 stars: Idrees was excited for Eid because he was excited to receive his gifts. He gradually realised though that the real gifts in his life were the non material aspects like love, memories and worship.

“It’s not the gift. It’s the love behind it”

(7) The Feast of Sacrifice by Hena Khan, 4 stars: This one was set around Eid-ul-Adha. Humza and his siblings had to stay with their grandparents whilst their parents embarked on the Hajj pilgrimage. As the eldest sibling, Humza was struggling having to be more responsible for his siblings and didn’t like his grandparents’ less exciting way of celebrating Eid. This story was about making sacrifices, about not being selfish and being able to give for someone else to receive. It was also about the importance of community in Islam, especially around Eid.

(8) Seraj Captures the Moon by G. Willow Wilson and Sara Alfageeh, 4 stars: This was a really cute graphic short story where a boy called Seraj goes looking for the Eid moon in a hot air balloon. It was also about the importance of sometimes blocking out all the noise and distractions to focus on faith and sharing joy.

(9) Searching for Blue by N. H. Senzai, 5 stars: This story was about celebrating Eid at a refugee camp in Greece. Bassem felt like their prayers were going unanswered and they had been forgotten. However, with everyone banding together they all managed to pull together a joyful, hopeful Eid for everyone despite their circumstances. It was really thought provoking and presented the many hardships and sorrows that refugees face and the writing was beautiful.

(10) Creative Fixes by Ashley Franklin, 4.5 stars: Makayla’s family had converted to Islam and all the changes to their lives were a lot for her to take in. It was about her finding the self confidence to be proud of herself and enjoy her first Eid.

“It’s hard to see the beauty in things when you can’t see past your insecurities”

(11) Taste by Hana Alkaf, 5 stars: Alia’s mother had been in a car accident and was in hospital, she was so upset and ridden with guilt that all her food lost its taste. But that wouldn’t stop her from cooking the lontong they had every Eid. It was about opening up to family and the power of food to bring people together. The writing was so compelling, I loved it!

(12) Eid Pictures by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, 4 stars: This was a moving poem about how Eid celebrations have changed over time and how the first Black Muslims in America must have celebrated their first Eids there.

(13) Not Only an Only by Huda Al-Marashi, 4 stars: This story focused on a girl called Aya who was the only Muslim in her school which she didn’t mind until an uncomfortable lesson about Sunni and Shia Muslims. The main message of the story was Sunni or Shia, we’re all Muslims- one community- and that it what matters most.

(14) Maya Madinah Chooses Joy by Ayesha Mattu, 4 stars: Maya Madinah didn’t know how to enjoy Eid after her parents had divorced. She hated everyone else’s joy and wanted to run away. This was a story about embracing change and focusing on creating love and joy around yourself.

(15) Eid and Pink Bubble Gum, Insha’Allah by Randa Abdel-Fattah, 4 stars: Deyana, her three younger siblings and her parents were embarking on their annual Eid-ul-Fitr road trip to visit her grandparents who lived near Sydney. She missed the peace she had when she was an only child and found her brothers and sister frustrating beyond belief. This story was about how love between family can overcome anger and the importance of patience and responsibility. It was really cute and funny.

All the short stories in the anthology were sweet and simple with a young main character and a moral or lesson to learn. I thought this was a good thing making the book accessible to a vast audience and a wide range of ages. I loved how all the stories focused on the core values of Islam and the true spirit of Eid: faith, family, community, kindness, generosity, responsibility and joy.

Twitter Goodreads

 

 

Blog Tours · Interviews · Uncategorized

Sereadipity Interviews… Zoraida Córdova!

Hello my booksicles!

Today, I bring you a Q&A I did with the brilliant Zoraida Córdova about her latest novel Incendiary (being released on April 28th). I was lucky enough to get a review copy of this book and it truly is spectacular. It is an honour that I got the chance to ask her a few questions as a part of the Incendiary blog tour!

Here’s a bit about the book:

I am Renata Convida.
I have lived a hundred stolen lives.
Now I live my own.

Renata Convida was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King’s Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucia. As a Robari, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata’s ability to steal memories from royal enemies enabled the King’s Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people.hbg-title-9781473677579-22

Now Renata is one of the Whispers, rebel spies working against the crown and helping the remaining Moria escape the kingdom bent on their destruction. The Whispers may have rescued Renata from the palace years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred–or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she turned “hollow” during her time in the palace.

When Dez, the commander of her unit, is taken captive by the notorious Sangrado Prince, Renata will do anything to save the boy whose love makes her place among the Whispers bearable. But a disastrous rescue attempt means Renata must return to the palace under cover and complete Dez’s top secret mission. Can Renata convince her former captors that she remains loyal, even as she burns for vengeance against the brutal, enigmatic prince? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.

But returning to the palace stirs childhood memories long locked away. As Renata grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the entire fate of the kingdom–and end the war that has cost her everything.

Interview:

The spellbinding world-building in Incendiary was heavily influenced by 15th century Spain. Why did you find this period of history inspiring?

When I was brought on to this project, I was instantly drawn by the idea of a magical group of people struggling for survival. I’ve often thought about Incendiary as a sort of Star Wars set in a fantasy landscape. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve written for Star Wars or because it’s so embedded into my subconscious. But it’s all there: A group of rebels fighting against a ruthless ruler. An agent of that leader who is tasked with destroying these rebels, but could actually be turned. Of course, the setting is inspired by historic Spain. Reading about that time period was very frustrating and painful at times because there are some things in the texts, like Daily Life in Spain in the Golden Age by Marcelin Defourneaux, that made it clear how cyclical hate is. That alone felt very timely.

Tell us a bit about the main character, Renata Convida, and what you want your readers to learn from her.

I love characters who are seeking redemption because it is one of my favorite themes to explore! Ren’s POV is the toughest one I’ve ever tried to tackle. She has suffered so much and she spends most of her young adulthood feeling guilt over things she couldn’t control as a kid. She was a weapon and she’s still a weapon. In the context of Puerto Leones, this fantasy kingdom, what does it mean when her whole being is suspect? When her own people distrust her? How long must she atone for? Should a child have to atone for the things they did, while under manipulation? It’s all so difficult to answer. Ren’s mind is so dark, and a lot of my other books have so much comic-relief, so this was definitely a challenge for me! But I loved the girl Ren is and the one that she chooses to become.

In the book there were four types of magic wielder: Robári, Persuári, Ventári and Illusionári. What inspired a magic system heavily based on the mind? And which one of these powers would you choose for yourself if you could?

Developing magic that was based on the senses and mind was a great world-building exercise. My other books (The Brooklyn Brujas series) have elemental magic, so I wanted to stay away from that. If I could be any of the Moria, I think I would be a Robári! Having the ability to remove some of my own memories? Yes, please. Although, I would use my power for the greater good… Though isn’t that how all villain stories begin?

What kinds of lives would the characters in Incendiary lead if they lived in our world?

I’d like to think that the rebels of my world would continue to be rebels in this world as well. Ren would be an activist, Sayida would be a psychologist, Margo and Dez would be in politics. They’d continue to fight for people. Though I’m sure they’d appreciate telephones and indoor plumbing.

Incendiary is full of riveting plot twists that kept me gripped throughout. What is the secret to crafting heart-stopping twists and turns?

For the writers out there, I think the secret is writing characters that feel real. You can have any kind of plot you want, but if the reader doesn’t care about the characters, then who is going to care or follow them to the end of their journey? Create someone worth rooting for and then put them to work. Don’t make things easy for your character. I always draft a scene one way, then once I’m editing I always ask myself the questions: how can I make life more difficult for XYZ?

Thanks for having me, and I hope you love Incendiary!

About the author:

Zoraida Córdova is the author of nine fantasy novels for kids and teens, most recently the award-winning Brooklyn Brujas series, Incendiary, and Star Wars: A Crazoraida-cordova-author-photo-credit-sarah-youngersh of Fate. Her short fiction has appeared in the New York Times bestselling anthology Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View, Come on In: 15 Stories About Immigration and Finding Home, and Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft. She is the co-editor of Vampires Never Get Old: Eleven Tales with Fresh Bite. Her debut middle grade novel is The Way to Rio Luna. She is the co-host of the podcast Deadline City with Dhonielle Clayton. Zoraida was born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, New York. When she isn’t working on her next novel, she’s planning a new adventure.

Thank you so much to Zoraida Córdova for taking the time to answer my questions!

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The Cosmic Horror Road Trip: Review of Ruthless Gods

Thank you to Wednesday Books for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book: Ruthless Gods (Wicked Saints #2)

Author: Emily A. Duncan

Year Published: 2020

Trigger Warnings: blood and lots of it

  • Plot: 3/5
  • Characters: 3.5/5
  • Writing: 4/5
  • Overall: 3/5

Ruthless Gods, the sequel to Wicked Saints, was partly a road trip through a malevolent forest, partly an exploration of divinity and full of meddling ancient gods. The plot was a weak point for me in the first book and unfortunately it was just as weak for me in this one however I fell even more in love with the gothic vibes.

The dark atmosphere created by the nightmarish Salt Mines, the menacing forest, the monsters inspired by Slavic mythology and all the eyes and teeth and blood was deeply unsettling in the best way.  I also loved how we got to learn more about the gods and their background and the way themes of divinity, humanity and monstrosity were entwined so thoroughly it was hard to tell them apart.

In this book, Serefin was struggling to come to terms with all that happened at the end of the previous book whilst trying to get the support of his court. And on top of all that, he had an eldritch god with mysterious motives trying to invade his mind. I liked him even more in this book, his point of view chapters were like a breath of fresh air sometimes. I also liked how his dynamics with both Kacper and Ostyia changed and developed.

Another character that I liked was Parijahan. We get to learn a lot more about the past she was running from and her motivations- she turned out to be a really interesting character. If anything, I would read the next book in the series just to find out how her path will be important to the overall story. And I have to mention Katya! As soon as she walked in she became one of my favourite characters. I don’t want to spoil anything about her but I’ll say this: she was brilliant.

However, Nadya and Malachiacz ended up being my main issue with Ruthless Gods. After the horrible, treacherous thing Malachiacz pulled at the end of Wicked Saints guess what Nadya wanted to do? She wanted to save him, she wanted to bring him back to humanity. But as far as I was concerned, he made his own choices and he had to live with them- why was it her job to fix him? And whilst she was telling herself she had secret plans and she needed his help, it was obvious that wasn’t her main motive. They had an interesting dynamic but I wished Nadya would act as if she’d learned something from all that happened to her in Wicked Saints aside from a few rare moments of self-reflection. Malachiacz knew what he wanted to achieve and no one and nothing would stand in his way.

The plot was too disjointed for me with lots of different things occurring and hinted at that didn’t connect together very well. I found it hard to care about their goals or understand why they were so important. I think I’d love this series much more if the plot was as gripping as the world it is set in and I’m still not sure if I’ll be reading the last book in the trilogy.

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Magic and Monsters and Tragic Power: Review of Wicked Saints

Book: Wicked Saints

Author: Emily A. Duncan

Year Published: 2019

Trigger Warnings: blood, self-harm, parental abuse

  • Plot: 3/5
  • Characters: 4/5
  • Writing: 4.5/5
  • Overall: 3.5/5

Wicked Saints was set in a gothic, icy, war torn world filled with magic where even gods were not what they seemed. I was swept away by the gorgeously dark aesthetic, intriguing mythology and almost lyrical writing although I felt the plot of the story was quite weak, lessening the overall effect for me.

The two countries, Kalyazin (inspired by Russia) and Tranavia (inspired by Poland) had been at war for centuries. The Kalyazi people believed in a pantheon of gods and there were clerics who could commune with them to receive magical power. However the people of Tranavia had forsaken the gods and relied on their own blood magic. This difference of beliefs is what triggered the war, no country willing stop until it brought the other to its knees. I loved how all the magic, monsters and gods were all intricately entwined and influenced by Slavic mythology!

Nadya was the last known Kalyazi cleric and could commune with the entire pantheon of gods. She was a shining beacon of hope for her people, the key to winning the war. When Tranavian forces attacked the monastery she lived in, she had to flee to keep that hope alive. Enter Malachiacz (said Mah-lah-kee-ash) a monstrous Tranavian blood mage, shrouded in mystery, who offered to help her.

To be blunt, I don’t like Nadya. All along Nadya thought she was scheming and doing everything it took to help her people when it seemed to me like she was just being led by the whims of others and not doing anything of worth at all. Apart from her admirably sarcastic nature there was nothing much to like about her. While it was predictable, I did find her relationship with Malachiacz intriguing because of the way their greatly opposing beliefs clashed. Although I don’t like him either, Malachiacz was much more interesting as a character. Mysterious, dangerous and very clever but also awkward and vulnerable in a way that you can never tell if he’s being sincere or if it’s an act but you want to believe its the former. Honestly though, if Nadya knew what’s good for her she’d stay away from him but these book characters never do.

The other point of view character was a Tranavian prince named Serefin and I liked him a lot more. He was called back home after years at war and was trying to make sense of all the odd things going on around him and the secrets his father held. He also had a visual impairment. Serefin’s friends- Ostyia and Kacper– were great and I loved the dynamic between the three of them. Ostyia especially was brilliant with her fierce, vivacious personality. I also loved the witch Pelageya and I think she was the only character who had any clue what on earth was going on. And I wished we got to learn more about Parijahan and Rashid.

As I said earlier, the plot was what broke this book for me. I just couldn’t see the point in any of it. Even as I sat down to write this review I realised that while I could remember all the characters’ names, the places and magic system but I had no idea what exactly happened to them in the book. And then I realised its because the plot was so underwhelming that I couldn’t bring myself to care about it enough to remember it.

Wicked Saints explored themes of religion, power and morality which are really interesting and probably would have been more so if the plot was more interesting too. I’d say it’s a novel for anyone who loves books with a dark, gothic and monstrous atmosphere.

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