Book Review: Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

A gorgeous story of magical realism in modern-day Nigeria that captivated me.

3.5/5 stars


synopsis for reviews 2

What Sunny Saw in the Flames transports the reader to a magical place where nothing is quite as it seems. Born in New York, but living in Aba, Nigeria, twelve-year old Sunny is understandably a little lost. She is albino and thus, incredibly sensitive to the sun. All Sunny wants to do is be able to play football and get through another day of school without being bullied. But once she befriends Orlu and Chichi, Sunny is plunged in to the world of the Leopard People, where your worst defect becomes your greatest asset. Together, Sunny, Orlu, Chichi and Sasha form the youngest ever Oha Coven. Their mission is to track down Black Hat Otokoto, the man responsible for kidnapping and maiming children. Will Sunny be able to overcome the killer with powers stronger than her own, or will the future she saw in the flames become reality?

Add it on Goodreads

my thoughts for reviews 1

I picked up this book wanting something different, wanting to break out of the bubble of what I usually read. Akata Witch was exactly what I needed.

The first thing that drew me into this book was Sunny, our protagonist. She had a clear voice that made me connect with her from page one. Sunny, an albino who lived in New York until she was nine and then moved back to Nigeria, is a constant outsider. She struggled to know how she fit into her new country, Nigerian ethnically but raised as an American. Her confusion and frustration was only amplified when she gets dragged into the magical world of Leopard People, where she continues to be an outsider and an anomaly. Though I have no personal connection to her struggles, her character was written in such an honest and open way that I felt deeply empathetic to her pain.

It is worth noting that “akata” is a nasty slur for African Americans in Nigeria. Using it in the title was a bold choice by the author, but one that captures the outsider nature of the main character perfectly.

Through Sunny’s character and the story as a whole, Akata Witch gives a vivid window into the complexities of Nigeria’s cultures. Now, I’m about as white as possible, so I came into this novel with my only real knowledge about Nigeria’s cultures coming from my art history class’s African art unit. Still, this book helped me understand more than just the broad strokes of life in Nigeria, discussing the nuances of the region, like the way different ethnic groups interact. Akata Witch immersed me in Sunny’s culture, making it accessible and familiar.

Though it is written for a middle grade audience, it does not shy away from discussing the complexities of Sunny’s life, including the sexism and prejudice she faces as an American albino girl in Nigeria. With other African American characters, the story even touches on issues of racism in America.

But Akata Witch’s setting goes beyond than modern day Nigeria with the story’s magical realism elements. I’ve seen a lot of reviewers saying that this book’s fantasy world building is nothing more than Harry Potter set in Nigeria, but I think that criticism is superficial and unfair.

Yes, Sunny is an outsider Chosen One suddenly drawn into a complex magical world, but the world that she becomes a part of is drastically different from HP. To refuse to see the complexities of the author’s world-building, combining multiple Nigerian ethnic beliefs with her own twists, to paint it as simply HP all over is naive and frankly disheartening.

I loved the magical elements of this book. They were quirky and compelling, combining Nigerian cultural traditions with a playful magic system that stretched across the globe. I loved that the author chose to have the magical system based entirely around the acquisition of knowledge. Some of the world building felt almost like a video game (in a good way), and I would say it is more fair to compare this book’s world to Ready Player One than HP (but that might just be me).

I also loved the positivity of the magical system, which is rooted in the idea that flaws in the “real” world are the roots of one’s power in the Leopard world. Sunny’s albinism, which people sneer at for making her a “ghost,” allows her to turn invisible, and her friend’s dyslexia allows him to reverse the effects of magic. I felt like this was a nice twist to work into a middle grade book, although to older readers it may feel somewhat obvious.

The side characters were really successful for me. I loved the group that Sunny befriends, because they were not perfect for each other. They bugged each other and pushed each other, adding a realistic dynamic to the story that would have been lacking if they had gotten along immediately. Each character, even the more minor ones, had a clear personality and presence.

I found the author’s writing style to be welcoming and smooth. Her imagery and characterization were impressive, bringing the story to life. Still, I had trouble with the pacing of this novel, which stems mostly from the fact that this book is middle grade.

I don’t read a lot of middle grade. I did not realize that this book was MG until I had started it, and while I still loved the story, I think I would have liked it more if I were not so committed to the YA genre’s style.

The exposition of this book was careful and thorough, taking up most of the first half. I loved that I got a clear understanding of the world and its magic, but after a while, the constant exposition started to hinder the pacing of the story for me. The story structure just felt like it was written for a younger audience, sacrificing swift pacing to make everything abundantly understandable.

This is nothing against the author or the story. Once I realized that it was a MG story and adjusted my expectations, I had fun with all of the world-building that dominated the story.

Would I have enjoyed the story more if it was faster, grittier, and darker? Maybe, but probably not. It would have been more like what I usually read, but it would have lost the playful charm that made me love this book in the first place.

The ending of this book saved it for me. The pacing sped up and the story started to tug at my heart-strings. The main subplot, which had felt underdeveloped throughout, came to the forefront and gave the book the drama it needed for a powerful ending.

Still, I wanted more from the ending. I felt like Sunny never really transformed or mastered being a Leopard Person. While that worked well with her outsider status and her constant self-doubt, it held the story back from having that cathartic, triumphant ending that I felt Sunny deserved.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone that is looking to broaden their reading horizons this year. Keep in mind that this is a middle grade book and appreciate it for its creativity and playfulness—and for its deft handling of sensitive cultural and societal conflicts—and you will love this story.

As I cannot possibly do this book justice, here is a review written by a Nigerian reviewer that comments thoroughly on the African cultural influences in this book. (Warning: it has minor spoilers) Also, here is a review written by an Ibgo (Sunny’s ethnicity) blogger.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Do you think you will read this book in the future?

Problematic Moments and Trigger Warnings: (A new section where I call out books for problematic moments and alert readers to possible triggers. Please note I am by no means an expert on either, but I will do my best to research the books I review as I write this section. I added this to help readers, but I cannot promise it will be perfect. I am still learning, and any critiques you have will be greatly appreciated. If I missed something in either category, tell me and I’ll edit the review to include it.)

Problematic Moments: Honestly, this book does not have anything blatantly problematic. There is a strong theme of physical punishment throughout that made me really uncomfortable, but I know that different cultures have different attitudes toward it, so this is more of a heads-up than a criticism.

Edit: Also, the handling of disabilities in this book is ableist. I am able-bodied, but reading posts by disabled bloggers discussing magic’s relationship with disabilities made me realize that the connection between disabilities and magical powers in this book is somewhat ableist. Also, Sunny’s disability goes away halfway through the story, which is definitely ableist in the sense of a “magical cure.”

Trigger warnings: This book is pretty tame, but TWs for physical punishment, (a little bit of) mental health stigma, and sexism (though most of the sexism is called out on page).

Book Review: Throne of Jade (Temeraire #2) by Naomi Novik

A lot more emotionally painful than the first book, but in a good way. Combined with a new setting, I am officially 110% in love with this series.

4.5/5 stars


Read my review of the first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, here.

synopsis for reviews 2

When Britain intercepted a French ship and its precious cargo–an unhatched dragon’s egg–Capt. Will Laurence of HMS Reliant unexpectedly became master and commander of the noble dragon he named Temeraire. As new recruits in Britain’s Aerial Corps, man and dragon soon proved their mettle in daring combat against Bonaparte’s invading forces.

Now China has discovered that its rare gift, intended for Napoleon, has fallen into British hands–and an angry Chinese delegation vows to reclaim the remarkable beast. But Laurence refuses to cooperate. Facing the gallows for his defiance, Laurence has no choice but to accompany Temeraire back to the Far East–a long voyage fraught with peril, intrigue, and the untold terrors of the deep. Yet once the pair reaches the court of the Chinese emperor, even more shocking discoveries and darker dangers await.

See it on Goodreads

my thoughts for reviews 1

While His Majesty’s Dragon made me fall in love with the Temeraire world, Throne of Jade was the book that captured my heart. It was not like I did not have an emotional connection to the first book, but I had a much stronger (and more painful) one with the second.

Throne of Jade revolves around Temeraire and Laurence’s fight to stay together, despite Chinese tradition that says Celestial dragons must belong to emperors. Politics, customs, and the lure of Chinese dragon culture all come between the two of them, creating an undeniably stressful story.

The world-building was incredible. Though two-thirds of the story focus on the journey to China, Naomi Novik still started to introduce the new characters and customs that they would encounter directly once they reached their destination. She brought the new setting to life and created an entirely different dragon culture than the one she had established in Britain.

Despite the complexity of the world Novik built, the specifics were never hard to keep track of. I easily understood the different perspectives of the Chinese envoys, the power struggle in the royal household, and the different aspects of dragon life. This creative but understandable world-building allowed me to enjoy the new setting without losing the train of the original story.

Temeraire experienced significant growth, becoming an even stronger character. The Chinese had a distinctly different view of dragons than the British, and in the new environment, Temeraire started to embrace different parts of his identity. Though it was painful when those changes brought him away from Laurence, I loved watching Temeraire’s development. He truly was a three-dimensional character, more fleshed-out than most of the human characters in the series.

Laurence changed in his own ways, fully embracing his identity as a dragon captain and fiercely fighting to keep Temeraire. I had not expected the argumentative side of Laurence that appeared, but I enjoyed seeing him come out of his uptight shell. Though he took longer to adjust to the Chinese culture, Laurence did allow it to change how he saw his native country.

The side characters remained somewhat one-dimensional, though the characters that were introduced in Throne of Jade had more layers than those that stuck around from the first book. I did not mind the way the characters were portrayed, because it did not hamper the story. Each character added a necessary element without getting in the way.

Throne of Jade was well paced, with action-packed fight scenes balanced against more emotional scenes of character growth. Though the book was not constantly dramatic, the threat to Laurence and Temeraire’s relationship kept me engaged and eager to read on.

Of course, with the Napoleonic Wars still going on, there are lots of intense fight scenes. One part of this book that separated it from the last one was the complexity that was added to Temeraire’s bloodthirsty nature. Yes, he still loves a fight, but he starts to think about the consequences of his actions and the nature of the battles he is fighting.

I would recommend Throne of Jade to anyone who read His Majesty’s Dragon. If the world-building or characters were not complex enough in the previous book, that problem is solved. If you want more fight scenes and dragons (who doesn’t?) they are just as dramatic and nuanced as before. And if you fell in love with the series in book one, book two will not disappoint.

Book Review: His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1) by Naomi Novik

How can dragons be so cute and so bloodthirsty at the same time?!?!?

4.5/5 stars

cover his majestys dragon

synopsis for reviews 2

Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors ride mighty fighting dragons, bred for size or speed. When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes the precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Captain Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future – and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

See it on Goodreads

my thoughts for reviews 1

Ever since I read Uprooted, I have been dying to read this series. The ninth and final book just came out, so I figured it was time to start.

I loved this book. It’s the Napoleonic Wars with dragons—what could go wrong? But it ended up being so much more than bloodthirsty dragons and fight scenes.

Laurence was the perfect protagonist. He started the book as a naval captain, but then the dragon, Temeraire, chose Laurence to be his companion. Thrust into the Aerie Corps, Laurence had to not only figure out how to be a dragon captain, but unlearn his navy habits and learn new Corps ones.

Older than other captains and an accidental captain, Laurence was a permanent outsider, creating a fascinating POV for the book to be told from. His voice was simultaneously stuffy and empathetic, so if his naval prejudices were ever annoying (which they were), his clear compassion for dragons and his fellow officers made up for it. His character’s arc was nuanced but natural, and though he learned how to be a part of the Corps, he never lost his naval quirks.

While I loved Laurence, I LOVED Temeraire. He was adorable—there’s no way around it. His voice was clear from his first line. He was unabashedly himself and ridiculously loyal to Laurence. Intelligent, inquisitive, and wholly unconvinced about things like royalty, Temeraire was also an outsider in the dragon world. Also, he was freaking bloodthirsty. Like Laurence, his character created a fascinating window into the dragon world because he has one foot inside and one foot outside of it.

The rest of the characters helped round out the novel. None of them had complex characterization, but in their own ways, they added necessary personalities to the story. I especially loved the different dragons that Naomi Novik added to the story and the way they interacted with Temeraire.

The world-building in His Majesty’s Dragon found a rare balance between historical accuracy and fantastical creations. Naomi Novik created an intricate dragon culture both a national level in the Corps and an international one, with different breeds and training systems for countries across the world. Additionally, the Corps’s society was hierarchical but easy to understand.

Set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, the book was tied closely to real historical events and details. However, Naomi Novik managed to add dragons to the story without losing the historical fiction feeling. Reading His Majesty’s Dragon honestly feels like reading historical fiction—so much so that I sometimes forgot that dragons didn’t exist in Napoleonic times (not really, but almost).

His Majesty’s Dragon started out a little slow, but after the first quarter of the novel, the pace picked up. Honestly, I didn’t mind the slow pace of the beginning because it gave me time to understand the characters and the world before the intense fighting started. Laurence and Temeraire’s training was dramatic at times, but also light-hearted, giving the book an interesting mood. However, His Majesty’s Dragon got intense, and if you’re looking for heart-pounding fight scenes, this book is perfect for you.

I would recommend this book for anyone looking for a story that straddles the line between historical fiction and fantasy. Though the characters are adults, I feel like this book would be accessible to YA fans. There is no romance, so the story is a celebration of friendship and loyalty, something every reader can connect to.

Top Ten Books I Want to Read Before the Year Ends

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Happy Tuesday! This week’s topic is supposed to be Books I’ve Added to my TBR Recently, but my TBR is a disaster right now, so I’m taking my own spin on the topic. Here are some books that I hope to read before the year ends.

1. Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

cover six of crows

I read the Grisha trilogy over summer and didn’t love it, but I’ve heard amazing things about the sequel series. My friend just read it and DIED over it, so I know I have to read it soon.

2. Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

cover firsts

I have literally been meaning to read this book all year…and yet I never got around to it. I can’t let 2016 end without reading this book finally,

3. Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi


I am fascinated by this book—I mean, when I think Tahereh Mafi, I definitely do not think MG. I know that she will do an incredible job with the genre and the story.

4. Calamity (The Reckoners #3) by Brandon Sanderson

cover calamity

Another book that I have been meaning to read since it came out! I love everything Brandon Sanderson writes, and I am ready to finish the Reckoners’ story.

5. Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes


I’ve had this book forever. My sister read it and didn’t love it, but there is a lot of love for the series, so I want to give it a shot.

6. Gemina (Illuminae Files #2) by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

cover gemina

BECAUSE OF COURSE. Just looking at this book makes my heart race, though, so I’ll probably wait to read it until a break from school and its stress, lol.

7. The Sweetheart by Angelina Mirabella

cover the sweetheart

My sister has been bugging me to read this book for months. I should read it before 2016 ends, just so that she won’t nag me in two different years 😉

8. His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1) by Naomi Novik

cover his majestys dragon

I LOVED Uprooted (if you haven’t read it, GO READ IT) so I am excited to see what else Naomi Novik has created. The series is nine books long and the last one finally came out, so I think it’s time to binge-read it. I just started this book, and so far it’s good—but I’m only 10 pages in.

9. Blood for Blood (Wolf by Wolf #2) by Ryan Graudin


Another OF COURSE on my TBR. Wolf by Wolf was incredible, so I HAVE to know how the story ends.

10. milk and honey by Rupi Kaur

cover milk and honey

I’ve seen this book everywhere and I’m excited for it. I don’t read a lot of poetry, but I took some poetry classes earlier this year and it reminded me just how much I like poems when I read them.

What books do you want to read before the year is over? What books are on your TBR and what books should I add to my own?

Book Review: Empire of Storms (TOG #5) by Sarah J. Maas

My heart. Is. In. Pieces.

5/5 stars

cover empire of storms

No spoilers for EOS, but I can’t avoid spoilers for the previous books. Sorry!

synopsis for reviews 2

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Aelin’s journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?

Add it on Goodreads.

my thoughts for reviews 1

This book was amazing. There was not a second of this book that did not completely enthrall me. And that ending—I SOBBED.

I knew this book would break my heart, and right on schedule, it did. But that’s not to say that EOS only broke my heart. It made me laugh, grin, and curl up into a ball of happy feels just as often as it destroyed me.

I love Aelin. Her character is a force of nature. She’s brilliant and brave and strong and selfless, but most of all, I believe in her. She’s not one of those incredible characters that is too perfect for real life. Even when she is raising armies and battling the forces of evil, she still feels human. She is larger than life and intensely realistic at the same time.

Elide also became a stand-out character for me in EOS. I had liked her in QOS, but it wasn’t until this book that I truly fell in love with her. She is a great compliment to Aelin, strong and determined like the queen, but with a very different underlying personality. I loved that she is simultaneously an introvert and a hero, a combination you don’t see a lot of in YA.

Lorcan was an interesting addition to the story; I didn’t expect him to be a part of the plot, but I ended up enjoying his presence. I am fascinated to see what happens with his character in the next book after that ending.

Manon’s character grew on me a lot. I had always liked her well enough, but it was in this book that she finally won me over. I’m trying not to spoil anything, but if you’ve read it, you probably know the moment I’m talking about. (I cheered.) Aelin and Manon working plotting together is my new favorite thing, especially if Lysandra is also involved.

Lysandra remains one of my favorite characters in the series. If possible, she becomes more badass in this book. I loved her interactions with Aedion, how they showed a different side of her that helped round out her character. Aedion himself continued to grow on me; I think I have finally let go of my initial (and somewhat random) annoyance at his existence.

Dorian has been a weird character for me. I always liked him more than Chaol (#sorrynotsorry), but in recent books his plot line had felt kind of tacked-on to the rest of the action. In this book, however, we get to see him interact with Aelin and the rest of the gang and grow into his own. His story finally melded with the rest of the book, and I started to like him again. I love how broken and imperfect he is; he has come such a long way from the cheery prince that he was in the first book.

I cannot say that I love Dorian and Manon together. It was fascinating to read, adding a dark and reckless vibe to the story, but I feel like their relationship needs to do more to convince me that the relationship should last.

And then there’s Rowan. Words cannot describe how important Rowan is to the story. Yes, he’s a big ball of swooniness, but he is also exactly what Aelin needed as she grew into her own in EOS. I loved finally reading a YA story where the romance is incredibly important to the characters’ growth without being the only reason they grow. Aelin and Rowan complement each other really well, but they each have their own individual characters as well—which only strengthens the romance between them.

Wow, there are a lot of characters. I didn’t even start to touch side characters (though those were also the perfect balance of interesting without overpowering the story). The beauty of EOS, though, is that the massive cast of characters doesn’t stop the story from fully exploring each one’s personality and arc. Of course, that means that the book is ridiculously long, but it also gives it the emotional power needed to break my heart in every possible way.

I don’t know what to say about the plot of EOS, mainly because so much happens. The plot is fast-paced and addictive. All of the subplots weave together well, better than in previous books, creating a continually powerful narrative. I never wanted to put the book down, though I had to force myself to take a break from the story so I could get schoolwork done.

The incredible thing about EOS is that it feels real. I have read countless stories of wars, revolutions, and diplomatic sparring matches, but none of them made me feel like I was actually in the middle of power plays between entire nations.

EOS just has this indescribable feeling of enormity. I could feel just how important every decision was, that each move Aelin made would affect hundreds of thousands of people. I don’t know how SJM did it…but it is awe-inspiring.

I need to talk about the ending, though I’m not going to spoil anything. Basically, the ending is a series of intense reveals that change the way that you see the entire series, and then a heartbreaking cliffhanger that sets up what will surely be an amazing sixth book. I sobbed for the last hundred pages, literally unable to control myself. I almost wish that the book had had a few more chapters, just to give me some time to absorb everything that was revealed in the last pages. As it was, I was left tear-stained and ruined, with a gaping hole in my chest that won’t be filled until the next book is released.

I know, that sounds overly dramatic. Trust me when I tell you it is an understatement.

I would recommend EOS to anyone who has enjoyed the TOG series so far. If you didn’t like HOF or QOS for character reasons, then I would honestly say don’t read EOS. You probably won’t like it, and it seems kind of pointless to put yourself through so many pages for such a little reward. But if you enjoyed HOF and QOS, READ EMPIRE OF STORMS RIGHT NOW. And then we’ll cry together.

Have you read EOS? If you have, have you recovered yet?

Book Review: Nevernight (Nevernight Chronicle #1) by Jay Kristoff

EDIT: It has been brought to my attention that this book contains harmful racial themes and imagery. This review was written before I realized this, and my current view of the book has been severely hampered by not only the racial problems, but by the author’s unwillingness to own up to his flaws. I do not plan to continue the series.

For a comprehensive breakdown of the problems and Kristoff’s responses:

An addictive fantasy novel that is complex and badass in equal measures.

4/5 stars


synopsis for reviews 2

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

Add it on Goodreads

my thoughts for reviews 1

From page one, I was in love with Mia’s character. She starts off the book your typical badass, hard-as-stone protagonist, which I loved. But as the story progresses, her softer side starts to show, and it made her a really unique character that I loved even more. She is ruthless, bloodthirsty, and vengeful, with a twisted set of morals and an unpredictable merciful side. I loved that though I expected her to be exactly the same protagonist I had read about a dozen times, her personality managed to break the mold.

The plot of Nevernight surrounds Mia’s training as she tries to become initiated into the Red Church, basically an assassins’ guild. I loved that Mia actually didn’t know everything already. Sure, she’s been trained for years already, but she isn’t a natural at anything in the training. I wouldn’t say that the fact humbled her—nothing can do that—but it definitely made the plot more interesting.

The one thing that sets Mia apart from the rest of the assassins is her darkin powers, which allow her to manipulate shadows. In a refreshing turn from the Chosen One mold, Mia’s powers do not earn her the respect or awe of her teachers. She does not receive special training for her powers, and though she actually is more powerful and special than the other initiates, she is never treated that way.

I loved Mia’s powers anyway. Her control over the shadows was interesting, especially because they were not a perfect weapon. Mr. Kindly, her shadow cat, was one of my favorite characters—he’s Sass Incarnate—and his ability to take away her fear added more layers to her character. Nevernight explores the ideas of courage and fear in a way I haven’t seen other books, never getting excessively preachy about the need to face your fears to be strong.

Nevernight’s world building is really complex, but also fascinating. The world has a complicated history, a nuanced government, a layered mythology, and an almost sci-fi physical organization. However, the way Kristoff wove the world building in—with footnotes and slang, mostly—made it easier to absorb. I still feel like there is more to learn, but I also trust that the footnotes will remind me of whatever I need to know for a particular scene.

I have a love-hate relationship with the footnotes. They are long and usually happen right in the middle of a scene. It would annoy me that I needed to stop in the middle of the action to read the footnote…but then every footnote is hilarious, so by the end I was not annoyed anymore.

The rest of the characters of Nevernight are also a mixed bag for me. There are some obvious pros: 1) There are a ton of interesting and strong female characters. 2) Mia has feelings for Tric without falling in love with him, a refreshing plot twist in the YA world.

Unfortunately, I feel like a lot of the side characters were missed opportunities. I could tell they were part of larger subplots, but those subplots never really emerged. I trust that some of them will be important in the second book, but I wish that they had been more influential in the first one.

Nevernight was addictive, pure and simple. I read most of it in one day, unable to put it down (which screwed me for homework, but that’s okay). There were lots of surprising moments. And yet, the pacing was missing something. As much as I could not stop reading the book, I still wanted more from it. Hopefully the second book will grab me more completely.

I would recommend Nevernight to fans of assassin stories, who are willing to read about ruthless and unforgiving characters. Though it was not perfect, I loved Nevernight and I cannot wait for the next book.

Top Ten All Time Favorite Fantasy Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic is Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Books Of X Genre, and I knew I had to choose fantasy. It is the genre I read the most often, and the genre that has most consistently blown me away.

1. All of the Mistborn novels by Brandon Sanderson

cover mistborn

Do you love intricate world building, vibrant characters, and lots and lots of plot twists? Then you HAVE to read Mistborn!

2. Graceling and Fire by Kristen Cashore

These are some of the first YA fantasy books I ever read, and I have to thank them for making me fall in love with the genre. They have the perfect balance between creative fantasy elements, powerful female characters, and swoon-inducing romance.

3. Uprooted by Naomi Novik

cover uprooted

This book is CREEPY AF. It blurs the line between fantasy and horror, fairy tale and nightmare, and does it all while creating one of my favorite heroines and love interests ever.

4. the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas

cover throne of glass new

If you haven’t heard of this series yet, you’ve probably been living under a rock. The series doesn’t hit its stride until the third book (in my opinion), but once it does, it becomes one of the most captivating YA fantasy stories out there.

5. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

cover the raven boys

I am in love with everything about this series: the characters, the world-building, the magic, and the writing style. I could read these books forever.

6. Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

cover elantris

Brandon Sanderson writes fantasy like no other. This is one of the most complex, moving fantasy stories ever—and it is a standalone.

7. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

cover sorcerer to the crown

I did not expect to love this book as much as I did, but it’s relentless dedication calling out sexism and racism won me over. It’s characters break the expected mold and the world building is unique even if it is not extremely complex.

8. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

cover the scorpio races

This is one of my comfort books. The story is gorgeous, with perfectly flawed characters and a wonderful hate-to-love romance. This is a must read.

9. The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner

cover the thief

Though the fantasy elements in this series are subtle, I still love them. This is one of my favorite series ever, and the small bits of fantasy thrown in only make it better.

10. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

cover night circus

This book is MAGNIFICENT. Both the fantasy world Morgenstern creates and the way she writes about it are unique and unforgettable. If you haven’t read this book yet GO READ IT.

11. the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas

cover court of thorns and roses

Finally, how could this list be complete without my current obsession, the ACOTAR series? A Court of Mist and Fury DESTROYED me, earning the title of one of the most powerful stories I have ever read.

Have you read these books? What are your favorite fantasy books? 

Book Review: Siege and Storm (Grisha #2) by Leigh Bardugo

As I expected, the second Grisha book was much better than the first, filled with compelling character development and emotional moments.

4/5 stars

cover seige and storm

This review will contain unavoidable spoilers for Shadow and Bone (Grisha #1), but my spoiler-free review for that book can be found here

synopsis for reviews 2

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her—or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

my thoughts for reviews 1

While Shadow and Bone left me very “meh,” Siege and Storm solved a lot of the problems I had with the first book and delivered a powerful story that I devoured in a day.

One of my biggest problems with Shadow and Bone had been the lack of explanation of Bardugo’s world building. Thankfully, Siege and Storm took major steps toward fixing this problem. I now feel like I understand the different Grisha powers more, though I still wish there had been a massive info-dump at some point. I know it’s weird to wish for something that is usually considered a writing flaw, but I’m fascinated by the different types of Grisha and I want everything to be explained at least once.

The star of this book is Alina. Her character experiences fascinating growth, developing past the scared girl of book one and into a leader. Her transformation felt natural, especially her hunger for power and the darkness that came with it. I loved the sense of uncertainty that dominated the story; I never really knew if Alina was transforming into a better or worse version of herself.

Another problem I’d had with the first book was a lack of interesting side characters, which was also fixed in book two. I loved all of the privateer characters that Alina met, and I was happy to realize that every character had a secret motive or at least an interesting backstory. The pirate captain was an amazing character, blurring the lines between good and evil and making the story a lot more interesting.

Even Mal, who had struck me as a fairly boring character in Shadow and Bone, grew into his own in this book. I loved seeing how he interacted with the Grisha world and with Alina’s new identity. Though it should have pained me, watching his character fall apart ended up pleasing me, just because it made him so much more interesting to read about.

I am still not convinced that Mal and Alina are each other’s “true loves.” The events of this book put a massive strain on their relationship, pushing each other apart as they grow into different versions of themselves. Though their relationship got more interesting in Siege and Storm, I ended up rooting (sort of) for their breakup.

Which brings me to the Darkling. I don’t buy him as a love interest either, but I missed his presence in the story. He was the most interesting part of the the first book, but he was mostly absent from the second one. I felt like we only ever saw repetitive cardboard cut-outs of him pop up every few chapters, and I think the story was hurt by that.

Even without the Darkling having a major role in the story, the plot of Siege and Storm was gripping. The story was the perfect length, and the pacing was done well. I didn’t want to stop reading from the first page through the last page.

Unfortunately, the ending struck me as very similar to the first book’s ending. I have never been one for cyclical or repetitive endings, and I found myself wishing for more from the last pages. Still, I have already ordered the next book, and I can’t wait to see how the series ends.

Top Ten Books I Enjoyed That Have Under 2000 Ratings on Goodreads

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic was really surprising for me! I never really use Goodreads (which I won’t get into right now), and when I do, I never really look at how many ratings a book has. The fact that some of these books have less than 2000 ratings blew me away!

1. Love and Other Unknown Variables by Shannon Lee Alexander (1,251 ratings)

cover love and other unknown variables

I LOVED this book! It was an incredibly romantic and moving story that also managed to have a beautiful math motif. The fact that this book has so few ratings kills me! My review here.

2. Atlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig (446 ratings)

cover atlanta burns

Chuck Wendig is an amazing person, people. You should definitely read his blog, Terrible Minds, and you should even more definitely read some of his amazing books! Atlanta Burns is his (clearly underappreciated) YA novel, but his Miriam Black series is also deserving of more love. My review here.

3. Going Underground by Susan Vaught (637 ratings)

cover going underground

AHHHHH!!! I love this book SO MUCH. It is the perfect combination of important social commentary and sweet, amazing romance. You will fall in love with the characters and you won’t be able to forget their stories. I know I couldn’t.

4. The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer (1,983 ratings)

cover vigilante poets

I read this book a while ago and remember being completely entertained by it. The characters and the premise were exciting, and I was completely sucked in to the story.

5. Putting Makeup on Dead People by Jen Violi (997 ratings)

cover putting makeup on dead people

Again, this is a book I read a while ago, so I don’t remember specifics, but I remember being drawn in by a relatable protagonist with extremely relatable emotions.

6. The Sweetheart by Angelina Mirabella (281 ratings)

cover the sweetheart

Okay, so I haven’t read this book yet, but my sister swears by it. She was captivated by the story and the characters and has been pushing me to read it ever since she finished it.

7. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez (725 ratings)

cover out of darkness

This book was HEARTBREAKING. It touched on incredibly important issues of sexism and racism with painful realism, all while capturing the reader in a historical setting. My review here.

8. Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein (1,505 ratings)

cover black dove white raven

Elizabeth Wein’s book Code Name Verity has over 52,000 ratings, while this one has under 2000?!?! Both stories have beautifully drawn characters whose stories bring history to life while breaking (and then mending) your heart. My review here.

9. Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt (323 ratings)

cover dream things true

Another book that touches on racism, though in the present day. This book focuses on the modern issue of illegal immigration in America, putting a human face on the suffering of undocumented immigrants while also commenting on other issues our society faces today. My review here.

10. The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore (1,735 ratings)

cover the weight of feathers

I didn’t go crazy for this book, I’ll admit, but the writing and the world building were absolutely gorgeous. My review here.

Have you read any of these books? What books have you loved that are underappreciated?

Happy Tuesday!

May Wrap-Up 2016

In My Life

May is over—and with it, the school year! Today is my last day of school and I am soooo excited for summer. I’ve survived junior year and that is giving me so much joy right now.

Honestly, not much happened this month. I took my AP exams, which went pretty well, and then school calmed down to the point where it feels like summer has kind of already started.

On This Blog

I had eight blog posts this month, which kind of sucks. I was finally starting to get back into the rhythm of blogging near the end of the month, but the beginning of this month was rough. I can’t tell you how glad I am that AP exams are over and that my life can go back to normal.

I only had one Top Ten Tuesday this month: Top Ten Books I Feel Differently About Now That Time Has Passed. One more thing I’m trying to get back into the habit of doing.

In Reading and Reviewing

I read seven (ish) books this month (ish because I started the month by finishing one and ended it by almost finishing another), and reviewed four of them. After AP exams ended, my classes calmed down a ton and I was able to read a lot. YAY!

Reviews are linked to in book titles (if they exist)

  • Out of Darkness by Ashely Hope Perez — 4.5/5 stars
  • These Broken Stars (Starbound #1) Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner  — 4/5 stars
  • This Shattered World (Starbound #2) Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner — 4/5 stars
  • Their Fractured Light (Starbound #3) Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik  — 5/5 stars
  • The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater
  • The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater

In Writing

Yeah…you know what didn’t happen this month? Yep, you guessed it—writing. I published one poem (You Came Back) and did no other writing. I’m hoping that summer will be better for this.

How was you May? For people who took AP exams, how did they go? What are your summer plans?