Reviews · Uncategorized

Monster Princess: Review of Girl, Serpent, Thorn

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

Book: Girl, Serpent, Thorn

Author: Melissa Bashardoust

Year Published: 2020

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

Girl, Serpent Thorn was a novel reminiscent of a fairy tale. Influences from Persian mythology were intricately woven throughout creating a tapestry of deadly beauty with monsters and magic in every thread. One of my favourite parts was actually the author’s note at the end explaining the inspirations behind certain aspects of the book, an important one being an epic poem called The Shahnameh. It is clear that so much thought and love went into creating the world.

Soraya was a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. She had spent her entire life hidden away in the shadows, starved of human contact. Meanwhile, her twin brother was the shah and dwelled in the sunlight and adoration of the people. Soraya felt resentful and crushingly, achingly lonely but she tried not to show it. She thought innocent thoughts and actions were the only thing stopping her from becoming a monster but in her darkest hours she wondered if it would be easier to become the monster others already thought her to be.

I loved Soraya’s journey of self acceptance. This could have easily been a villain origin story but it wasn’t and while there were many moments when Soraya gave into her darker impulses she always brought herself back and rejected monstrosity. Her story showed that protecting someone with lies often isn’t protection at all and when too many secrets accumulate it can be more deadly than poison. Soraya’s relationship with Parvaneh was sweet and hopeful. Their romance wasn’t a major part of the book but the way they saw a beauty in each other that no one else did was heart warming.

In a lot of YA fantasy, the parents are often dead or have no part to play in the story. That wasn’t the case with Girl, Serpent, Thorn. I loved how Soraya’s relationship with her mother was portrayed. Many secrets surfaced between them and their relationship was often messy and strained but there was an overwhelming sense of love, appreciation and respect between them that grew as the story progressed.

The writing was gorgeous and lyrical and completely drew me in. However, I wish the plot was a bit stronger. Some of the events that happened felt too contrived or convenient and some details needed more explanation. However overall Girl, Serpent, Thorn was a magical, Persian-inspired read with a compelling main character and a f/f romance that I would definitely recommend.

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Reviews

Into the Shadow: Review of The Damned

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

Read my review of The Beautiful here!

Book: The Damned (The Beautiful #2)

Author: Renée Ahdieh

Year Published: 2020

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

The Damned was a magical read that expanded upon the first book well, answering many of the questions that I had whilst giving me more. I loved diving back into the glamorous yet monstrous world of The Beautiful and learning more about the characters. However, it wasn’t a five star read like the first book was for me because I felt like it tried to cram a bit too much in without adequate explanation.

Celine was grappling with the trauma of what happened to her at the end of The Beautiful. She felt like she had lost herself in the midst of confusion, nightmares and terror gripping her when she was perfectly safe. For Celine, this book was about self discovery– in more ways than one. She showed even more fortitude and determination than in the previous book and I was rooting for her throughout.

Celine took centre stage in The Beautiful and Bastien had little character development, whereas The Damned saw him take the spotlight and have his own arc too. His POV chapters were in the first person and in the present tense, as opposed to everyone else’s POV chapters being in the third person and the past tense, making it feel as if it was primarily his story. We get to see the most of his inner conflict as he dealt with his own trauma and navigated uncharted waters in a familiar world. He wanted to be a better version of himself despite the darkness inside him and he went on a journey to find out what that meant. I liked discovering more depth to his character and it helped me to better understand him.

“Love and loyalty are not always the same thing. Loyalty is easy. Love is doing what is right, even when it is difficult.”

I loved getting to learn more about the side characters especially Odette and Jae. I think they both deserve their own spin off books because they’re amazing and have the most interesting back stories. We get to see the POVs of so many more characters in comparison to The Beautiful such as Bastien, Odette, Jae, Arjun and more. I was actually surprised that we don’t see Celine’s POV until around a quarter of the book. I liked reading from new perspectives even though at first it slowed the pace down too much.

The Damned didn’t hold back with the supernatural: vampires, werewolves, fey, goblins and more. We are introduced to the magical realms of the summery Sylvan Vale and the wintry Sylvan Wyld– equally dangerous despite their appearances. The plot became more about the greater picture than any one character’s goals which I liked but, as I mentioned earlier, too many components were introduced without being properly fleshed out. The conflict between the Brotherhood and the Fallen could have also felt more high stakes.

I really enjoyed The Damned but it felt like it was mainly setting the stage for the next book. I originally thought this series was a duology but it turns out there’s going to be a third book and I cannot wait!

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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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Reviews · Uncategorized

In The Spirit of Friendship: Review of Forest of Souls

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

Book: Forest of Souls

Author: Lori M. Lee

Year Published: 2020

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

Forest of Souls was a magical read about the strength of friendship and developing self worth. It was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and I really liked it!

The main character was Sirscha, a spy-in-training who discovers she is the first soulguide in living memory and the only one capable of restraining the vicious, dangerous Dead Wood. I loved her uncompromising fierceness, skill and strength- she was a force that you definitely would not want to be on the wrong side of!

No matter how hard Sirscha trained and how skilled she became most people never saw any value in her because of her low station. This resulted in a fear of never being enough and a desire to be worthy and seek external validation that drove her every action. These fears, of failure and disappointing those around us, are something I think that many people can relate to and it’s amazing seeing Sirscha start to realise that her worth isn’t tied to what others think of her. 

Another key aspect of this novel was unconditional friendship. I’ve never seen a YA fantasy that puts a friendship front and centre instead of a romance and it was a beautiful thing to behold. Saengo was Sirscha’s best friend and despite their differences, especially in rank, they were inseparable and would do anything for each other. Through all the trials and tribulations their friendship stood firm where others would have wavered and it gave them the strength to keep fighting for each other. My only wish is that Saengo gets more of an active role in the next book because I really would have liked to see more of her in action.

I’ve always been intrigued by magic systems in books and the system in Forest of Souls was one of the most interesting I’ve ever seen. The author has said that it was inspired by Hmong shamanism and it had a heavy emphasis on spirits and souls as the source of magic. It also had an elemental aspect with the five Shamanic Callings being fire, water, earth, wind and light. Separate to this there were also the Shadowblessed who could manipulate shadows. I loved how well fleshed out the system was and the fact that spirit familiars were necessary to channel the magic was probably my favourite part of it.

I loved the Dead Wood, the chilling forest of souls referenced by the title, as it was so morbid and visceral while also serving as a symbol for how hatred can endure and power can corrupt even the most well intentioned person. A large chunk of the book was spent in the Dead Wood and its surroundings which was great but I hope too see much more of the world in the sequel. Overall, Forest of Souls was a brilliant YA fantasy novel that is beautiful both inside and out.

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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… Intisar Khanani!

Greetings, booksicles!

A while back I interviewed Intisar Khanani about Thorn her spellbinding retelling of The Goose Girl which came out earlier in the year. It is with great excitement that I share that interview with you today and I really appreciate the time Intisar took to answer my questions.

Here’s a bit about the book:

A princess with two futures. A destiny all her own

Between her cruel family and the contempt she faces at court, Princess Alyrra has always longed to escape the confines of her royal life. But when she’s betrothed to the powerful prince Kestrin, Alyrra embarks on a journey to his land with little hope for a better future.

When a mysterious and terrifying sorceress robs Alyrra of both her identity and her role as princess, Alyrra seizes the opportunity to start a new life for herself as a goose girl.

But Alyrra soon finds that Kestrin is not what she expected. The more Alyrra learns of this new kingdom, the pain and suffering its people endure, as well as the danger facing Kestrin from the sorceress herself, the more she knows she can’t remain the goose girl forever.

With the fate of the kingdom at stake, Alyrra is caught between two worlds and ultimately must decide who she is, and what she stands for.

Interview:

Hello and thank you for doing this interview with me! Thorn is a retelling of The Goose Girl. Why do you like this fairy tale and therefore decide to retell it?

The Goose Girl is a rather strange story about a princess who goes off to marry her betrothed, has her identity stolen by her maid along the way, and happily goes off to be a goose girl upon arrival in her new land. She also has a talking horse (who never tells anyone what happened) and, in the original, can command the wind, though she apparently forgot to use this power to defend herself from the maid.

The story raises so many questions for me – mostly beginning with “Why?” Why not protect yourself from the maid? Why go off to be a servant without even attempting to reclaim your position? Why be complicit in your own silencing?

All these questions gave me lots of room to play, and to make the fairy tale my own while still remaining true to it. I loved the story growing up, even with all its plot holes and oddities, and so it was the perfect story to adopt when I decided to try my hand at writing a novel.

Tell us a bit about the protagonist, Alyrra, and her journey.

I wrote Alyrra in large part because I was sick and tired of seeing YA fantasy heroines who saved the day by transforming into warriors or superheroes or sorceresses – because, frankly, if that’s what it takes to save the day, we’re all in very big trouble. In trying to understand Alyrra further, I realized that the answer to one of the “why” questions above – why a princess would walk away from a position of privilege and power – was because she had never experienced it as such; she had never felt safe in her rank or title, so the opportunity to escape it would certainly appeal. And so, Alyrra comes from a history of abuse, something she struggles to overcome over the course of the book (because no, you can’t snap your fingers and get over it), and she saves the day by being true to herself and principles, and finding her own strength and voice. Honestly, I’m in awe of her.

[I’m in awe of Alyrra too!]

One of the main themes in the novel is justice and the many forms it can take. Why did you decide to explore this theme?

This was actually an issue I was really struggling with – not just justice, but mercy, and justice without mercy, and the line between justice and revenge – in the years that I was working on these revisions, and my questions found a natural home in this story. My first draft was a much lighter, fluffier book, but the story grew with me over the years, into what it is now.

Describe the prominent characters in Thorn as recipes.

Tough question! Augh!

Princess Alyrra (aka Thorn): Honey cakes, maybe? She’s naturally sweet and rather understated. Admittedly, she has a core of iron, but you shouldn’t put that in the recipe.

Prince Kestrin: Cinnamon bun inside a puzzle box. Seriously. There has to be a recipe for that somewhere.

Red Hawk (a thief lord): Tagine made with ghost peppers. Yeah, that’s not a recipe, but he’s down home and friendly and also hecka dangerous.

Sage (a friend): A nice bowl of lentil soup, no airs, all substance and warmth. You know, all told, I think Sage is the safest bet here.

Sorry if these were not quite the answers you were looking for… XD

[These were exactly the sort of answers I was looking for! And for anyone who doesn’t know, ghost peppers are some of the hottest in the world!]

Were there any specific cultures/ mythologies that inspired Thorn?

Not per se. I drew very, very lightly from specific North African cultures (and, actually, climate, flora, and fauna), but I wanted the kingdom of Menaiya to be more fantasy than a clear parallel to reality. Similarly, Alyrra’s homeland of Adania has only a passing resemblance to an old German hall, and only if you squint just so.

Are there any other fairy tales would you want to retell in the future?

So many! I am currently trying really hard to refrain from writing a gender-swapped Sleeping Beauty set in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic future, in which a young girl accidentally wakes up a Fae lord who was put in cryogenic sleep for Very Good Reasons. And I’ve also got a Red Riding Hood retelling beckoning me, featuring a military courier and a pack of enemy werewolves. So many books, so little time!

[Please write these stories Intisar, PLEASE!]

Thorn was originally self-published as an e-book. How were the experiences of self-publishing and traditional publishing different?

In a lot of ways, they were very similar, except that I had a team of support through my publishers. So, for example, I always go through multiple rounds of edits with beta readers and freelance editor. In this case, I did everything I could do with those folks, and then took my manuscript to my editor and her team in order to kick it up another notch.

With marketing, my UK publisher, Hot Key, was incredibly engaged and came up with some fantastic ways to reach and engage readers. HarperTeen was much more opaque, though I suspect a lot was going on out of sight. But I still had to do all the same marketing I would have done for an indie release, plus whatever else I could do – not a surprise, mind you! Whether you publish yourself or go the traditional route, authors nowadays are fully expected to engage in their own marketing.

Can you tell us a bit about The Theft of Sunlight? And will we get any more books featuring Alyrra?

The Theft of Sunlight features Rae, who is introduced at the end of Thorn via the included short story, The Bone Knife. In Theft, Rae heads to the capital city from her home, and somehow (strangely enough) finds herself serving Princess Alyrra as an attendant. (It is rather odd, but you know, I think there was an author involved in arranging that.) The story picks up within a week or so of Thorn ending, so we do get to see Alyrra (and Kestrin, and a few other friends) again, but all from Rae’s perspective as she takes up a few strands that were left loose at the end of the last book. I’m afraid I don’t have any more books featuring Alyrra as a point-of-view character – her story is largely told – but we will get to catch up with her through other folks’ eyes. 🙂

About the author:

Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. Born in Wisconsin, she has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. She currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and two young daughters. Prior to publishing her novels, Intisar worked as a public health consultant on projects relating to infant mortality and minority health, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy.

To find out about new releases, giveaways, and so forth, subscribe to Intisar’s monthly author newsletter.

Thank you again to Intisar Khanani for answering my questions!



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.

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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.

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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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